I enjoyed Walter Karp’s “Henry Francis du Pont and the Invention of Winterthur” in the April/May issue, but I want to challenge some of his statements about Mr. du Font’s gardening activities.
Mr. du Pont did not concentrate on the garden after the museum was created. Gardening was a lifelong pursuit carried out with the same obsession that characterized his collecting and display of antiques. Mr. du Pont worked in a local nursery while a student at Groton School, which, as you can imagine, caused quite a family scandal. He studied horticulture, botany, and landscape design at the Bussey Institute of Harvard University at the time when Boston was the horticultural mecca of America. Aside from raising dogs, the young du Font’s only concerns seem to have been ornamental plants and garden design. Upon his return to the family home at Winterthur in 1903, following college, he began extensive development of the gardens and grounds under the ever watchful eye of the colonel. Mr. du Pont was recognized as one of this country’s finest horticulturists and was invited to be a “foreign member of honour” at the Royal Horticultural Society’s International Exhibition of 1912.
Unfortunately, ignorance of Mr. du Font’s horticultural accomplishments has led to the present status of the magnificent gardens at Winterthur as an adjunct, a side-attraction, to the museum.