QBARS - v24n1 Henry Francis du Pont

Henry Francis du Pont
C. Gordon Tyrell, Director of Gardens, Winterthur
Reprinted from the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, August, 1969.

Mr. H. F. du Pont, who died on April 11,1969, at the age of 88, spent much of his life transforming his family house into one of the great museums of our time, surrounding it with a vast garden of his own design, which reflects the natural beauty that is so much a part of Delaware. In 1950 he gave both his house and collection to an educational foundation, which he established in 1930, to be open for the pleasure and enlightenment of the public. Mr. du Pont received the two highest awards give to non-professional horticulturists in the United States, the Gold Medal of the National Association of Gardeners and the Garden Club of America's Medal of Honour. He was elected a Vice-President of The Royal Horticultural Society in 1961.

We have lost a friend and the guiding hand behind the planning in the gardens by the passing of Mr. du Pont, who was indeed an eminent horticulturist in his own right. His exposure to horticulture at an early age had a great influence in later years, because after working in the gardens with his father he was in a good position to carry on the work already started. From 1927, when he inherited the estate of Winterthur, he worked unceasingly to develop a garden with its naturalistic setting, using indigenous material and by the addition of horticultural plants to complete a harmonious picture.

Mr. du Pont was truly an artist, with the landscape his canvas and the plant material his palette, and with his colour sense he was able to paint beautiful landscape pictures. True, the gardens of Winterthur contain a marvelous collection of plant material, but these have been used in such a way that the sense of colour groupings has been carried out with great care.

His philosophy in gardening, which was his first love, was to plant in bold masses with a careful eye to the colour scheme. In the later years all his efforts were directed towards providing pleasure not only for himself, but for the public at large, and providing the most bloom through the garden by the choice of material and by the superimposing of two or three different plants blooming two weeks apart, so that a continuity of colour was provided.

His greatest enjoyment was to walk in the gardens in the late afternoon, when the light was at its best and there was peace and quietness, which meant so much to him at the end of a busy day. At this time he was able to make notes about blooming dates, which were kept with great care, and also plan new projects or the moving of plants to improve planting, as he was always trying to reach perfection. This was one of his traits and it was a real challenge working with him to attain this end. The least little detail was never overlooked or considered unimportant.

The garden reflects the thought and care put into it by H. F. du Pont and it will miss his guiding hand, as the gardens are here for posterity.