Our Rose Garden beautifully showcases a modern design approach while maintaining its original 1930s architecture and layout, all in a continuation of the legacy of our founder, Pierre S. du Pont.
Nestled adjacent to our Topiary Garden and overlooking our Main Fountain Garden, this evolving garden was first planted by du Pont in spring 1938—making it one of the last gardens added during his lifetime. Mr. du Pont planned a series of rectangular beds, each planted with a single variety of rose and surrounded by flagstone walks and turf lawns. Yew trees were planted on either side of the walk to frame views into the Main Fountain Garden.
In 2019, we embarked on a redesign of the Rose Garden to help encourage lingering and exploration within the garden itself, as well as better connect the Rose Garden with adjacent gardens. Today’s Rose Garden continues to honor the history of this space by maintaining its original architectural elements and showcasing the beauty of roses—including Mr. du Pont’s beloved ‘Direktor Benschop’ City of York climbing rose—but also features a more diverse, multi-seasonal plant palette.
The Rose Garden now features a central ellipse surrounded by a number of planting beds. As a nod to Mr. du Pont’s original use of yew trees and the sundial that originally served as a highlight in the Topiary Garden, the ellipse features low-growing yews in its center, which help give the garden structure. Within the ellipse, grandiflora and shrub roses harken back to Mr. du Pont’s original design. We’ve filled the remaining beds with a woven mix of perennials, grasses, and small trees and shrubs, which together create unexpected and exciting combinations throughout the seasons. Each bed boasts its own plant palette, contributing to the continuous color story told throughout the Rose Garden, as well as the garden’s overall natural, soft, and diverse look.
Planted in 1938, the formal Rose Garden is actually Longwood’s second rose garden; the first rose garden was planted in 1908 south of the Flower Garden Walk on the site of our present Wisteria Garden. While not an avid collector of roses, Mr. du Pont used them throughout his gardens in beds, hedgerows, and trellises. More than 800 roses were installed in spring 1938, including more than 250 plants each of Rosa ‘Miss Rowena Thom’ and R. ‘Mrs. Pierre S. du Pont’ and more than 150 plants each of R. ‘President Herbert Hoover’ and R. ‘Margaret McGredy’. Over the following years, Mr. du Pont no doubt edited the plantings, removing cultivars that were not performing and adding in promising new hybrids.
Throughout the years, we continued to maintain the Rose Garden as originally envisioned by Mr. du Pont, which posed a number of aesthetic and horticultural challenges. The garden’s simple plant palette and lack of diversity gave guests little to see in winter, and competing views into the Topiary Garden to the north, Main Fountain Garden to the west, and Cow Lot to the east drew attention away from the Rose Garden. The pair of original yews that had framed the vista into the Main Fountain Garden was removed in the 1960s, weakening the Rose Garden’s connection to the Main Fountain Garden. Our recent redesign of the Rose Garden helps unify this historic garden with its surrounding garden spaces, as well as creates multi-season horticultural interest among its original architectural elements.