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Idea Garden

Our Idea Garden’s sections dedicated to annuals, perennials, vegetables, and small fruits demonstrate some of the best plant varieties that can be reliably grown in this region and show home gardeners how to combine such elements to create gardens that shine year-round. Get ready to take notes and lots of pictures!

Nestled at the western edge of our formal Gardens, the Idea Garden nods to both the classical elements in the adjacent Main Fountain Garden and the sweeping Brandywine countryside farther to the west. Look for repeated elements, such as clipped carpinus, linear pathways, and traditional and unusual bedding plants combined with textural grasses, charming hand-crafted support structures, and handcrafted elements that demonstrate our gardeners’ love of horticulture and playful experimentation.

Annual Display

Delight in this seasonally evolving display focused on bulbs in spring and annual flowers throughout the summer months. Our gardeners create beautiful new plant combinations each year, masterfully balancing color, texture, form, proportion, and repetition to create a harmonious vista.

Combination Garden

The Combination Garden surprises with its creative mix of small-flowering trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and bulbs. An exciting and dynamic design that celebrates seasonal changes, the Combination Garden highlights the beauty of plants in all seasons. Learn how this sustainable approach to gardening creates fleeting views as plants move through a natural succession of blooming, setting seed, receding, and returning for the next gardening year.

Container Garden

Container gardens bring beauty to even the smallest outdoor space. Our talented horticulturists combine a diverse array of tropical, hardy, and flowering plants to create beautiful and inventive containers that provide interest in all seasons.

Ornamental Kitchen Garden

Vegetables, fruits, and herbs are beautiful and bountiful in our Ornamental Kitchen Garden. Dedicated to growing vegetables since 1927, this garden features both common and unusual varieties sustainably grown alongside cut flowers, fruit trees, and berries. Sculptural arches, trellises, and domes handcrafted by our horticulturists from natural materials create a playful space that celebrates the beauty of these attractive and tasty plants. Learn techniques for growing a wide variety of crops in a small space and find inspiration for your own culinary garden.

Perennial Display

An exuberant collection of sun and shade perennials, our Perennial Display highlights herbaceous plants that come back year after year . This living plant catalogue doubles as an immersive study guide for students in our Continuing Education courses. A mix of bloom times and textures means this garden looks spectacular in any season.

Student Exhibition Garden

Expect the unexpected in this space, which is designed and maintained by students in the Professional Horticulture Program—Longwood’s collegiate-level, two-year school in professional horticulture. The students design the Gardens each year as part of their Landscape Design and Landscape Construction courses, within given budget, theme, and design parameters. Student teams are responsible for the procurement of all plant materials and hard goods needed to carry out their garden designs, which are on display from mid-May until mid-October.

History of this Garden

This 5-acre site was once a large vegetable garden that supplied food for the du Ponts and their employees. Since the late 1950s, the space has been devoted to educational displays for home gardeners. The various sub-sections of the Idea Garden have changed over time, as trends in home gardening shift and our horticulturists experiment and innovate in this space. Sections were formerly dedicated to groundcovers, ornamental grasses, vines, and roses. From 2013 to 2018, part of this space—then known as the Trial Garden—was host to a series of design competitions, putting new cultivars and combinations to the test in designs created by staff.

Explore Plants In This Garden