Meadow Garden

An historic farmhouse sits in a grassy meadow in autumn
Style
Expansive, Naturalistic, Varied
Best Seasons to Visit
Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn
Scale
86 Acres

Quiet your busy mind with a trip to the Meadow Garden, where you’ll be greeted by expansive vistas, sweeps of stunning native plants, and a tapestry of texture. Time slows as you wander miles of trails past the carefully managed wetlands, ponds, open fields, and forest’s edge, set to the hum of busy insects and rustling plants. From season to season, nature’s ephemeral beauty awaits, beckoning all of us to look more closely at our natural world.

About This Garden

Our spacious Meadow Garden takes you beyond the formal areas of Longwood into 86 open acres of designed natural landscapes. Bridges, pavilions, and boardwalks call attention to the various habitats that demonstrate the complex interrelationships of plants and small animals to one another. Native flowers and grasses attract a variety of pollinators that, in turn, maintain many kinds of life, from butterflies, moths, and skippers to an array of birds. The wetlands support moisture-loving plants, amphibians, and insects, while the young trees and shrubs of the forest’s edge provide cover and food for many birds and small animals. 

Beyond the contemplative beauty of this vast, open space, the opportunities for learning are numerous, supported not only by the miles of trails and multiple pavilions, but also the historic Webb Farmhouse which, through signage, photography, and art installations, showcases the Meadow throughout the four seasons and the stories of the people who have inhabited and influenced the land since the Lenni-Lenape. 

The Meadow, home to a diverse array of important flora and fauna, is a critical type of habitat that is increasingly rare in our region. We work year-round to control invasive species, protect the watershed, maintain native species, manage growth, and keep the health and vigor of the Meadow balanced and resilient. We have added new groupings of native species of flora that will gradually mature and intermingle with other species, bringing more diversity and intensity of color to the Meadow’s beauty.

A garden, to be a work of art, must have the soul of the native landscape in it.

Jens Jensen

A Bit of History

The Meadow Garden was once heavily wooded, with only small clearings where the Lenni-Lenape planted their crops—a very different landscape than the one we manage today. The early European settlers in this region timbered the forest for their domestic needs, turning large fields into farmland. The tradition of agriculture continued and expanded under the direction of our founder, Pierre S. du Pont. Two of his significant purchases, the Merrick and Webb farms, became central to his agricultural activities and to the Meadow today. He planted fields of orchards and crops for livestock. Once he phased out the operations of the Longwood Farm in the 1950s, a gradual restoration began to allow for open space. In the 1970s, the land was transformed again into a meadow. In 1980-81, famed landscape architect Sir Peter Shepheard (1913-2002) improved many of the pathways that lead to the Meadow, providing new vistas to this area as well as an appreciation for the variations in landscape and horticultural design on our property. 

In June of 2014, we debuted a new version of the Meadow Garden—doubling its size to 86 acres. A stunning example of ecological design by landscape architect Jonathan Alderson, it was an exciting departure from the formal gardens for which we were known. Importantly, it underscored our commitment to supporting the interconnectedness of plants and wildlife in this region of the Brandywine Valley. The ongoing stewardship of the Meadow contributes to the enhancement of the water quality of the Brandywine River watershed, providing high-quality habitats for a variety of terrestrial and aquatic organisms.