Mt. Cuba Center has incorporated the designs of famed landscape architects such as Marian Coffin and Thomas Sears into its gardens throughout its history. Now, it’s latest renovations will feature inclusive accessibility upgrades by the internationally recognized Nelson Byrd Woltz (NBW).
This fall, the team broke ground on the first of many renovations to come. The new Upper Allee will provide a space for educational programing, special events, and gatherings.
“The goal is to create a guest experience that connects people with nature and facilitates the garden’s mission to inspire an appreciation for the beauty and value of native plants and a commitment to protect the habitats that sustain them,” George Coombs, Mt. Cuba’s director of horticulture, says.
Additionally, this renovation will include a path connection to the Forecourt, as well as a ramp from the Round Garden and connecting brick path through the Lilac Allee. Shaded open air seating enhances the guest experience and allows an ideal view of the formal gardens during gatherings and events.
This project replaces scarlet oaks with sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Happidaze’) that are reminiscent of the original sweetgums that grew in that location. The sweetgums are also notable for their beautiful fall color and are more tolerant of difficult site conditions.
NBW landscape architect Chloe Hawkins says these renovations are meant to be contemporary and elegant insertions in a historic setting that feel like they were always there.
“The changes we’re making in the gardens for accessibility are being used in relation to existing structures and fit in the same footprint to retain the essential character of the garden,” she says.
Once the current renovations are completed, a new ramp to the Conservatory Terrace will be added, and in 2021, construction will begin on a sustainable, net-zero energy greenhouse. The greenhouse will grow wild collected, native, and endangered plants for conservation efforts and display in the gardens.
As Mt. Cuba’s work in education and conservation expands, so will its facilities for plant production and research. Future improvements also include an arrival experience including a new entrance, welcome center and parking lot.
“The arrival experience includes a new woodland glade inspired garden characterized by higher light levels and an expansive ground with only a limited understory, an environment not currently represented at Mt. Cuba,“ Coombs said.
NBW and Mt. Cuba’s team of horticulturists, educators, and researchers worked together to form a master plan that remains true to the garden’s mission and historic character. The plan takes future structures and experiences into consideration., incorporating Mt. Cuba’s distinctive style with new design aspects.
“Ecological landscape design is one of our core values,” says Hawkins. “We’re both promoting and collaborating with organizations, scientists, and individuals that are working to help the public understand and contribute to the research and science of conservation.”
About Mt. Cuba Center
With paths taking guests from the formal gardens of a du Pont mansion through lush woodlands and picturesque meadows with stunning vistas, Mt. Cuba Center is a botanical garden that puts the beauty of native landscapes on display to inspire conservation. What began in the 1930s as the private estate of Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland is now a public garden that highlights the beauty and value of native plants. In addition to cultivating the public garden’s formal and naturalistic landscapes, Mt. Cuba staff conduct research, connect guests to the natural world, and teach students about native plant gardening. In 2020, Mt. Cuba was voted best botanical garden in North America by USA Today readers, and was also awarded The News Journal’s Best Workplaces and Delaware Today’s Best Creative Workshops. Learn more at mtcubacenter.org.
About Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects (NBW) is an internationally recognized landscape architecture firm with studios in New York City, Charlottesville VA, and Houston TX; it has garnered over 100 awards within the past 15 years, including the prestigious Amanda Burden Public Open Space Award for Citygarden in St. Louis MO.
Dedicated to aesthetic and environmental excellence, social commitment and innovation, NBW is designing major public landscapes in the United States and abroad, placing 30 years of innovation in greater service to the public realm. Current projects include Phase One implementation of the Mt. Cuba Center Master Plan, Forsyth Park in Savannah(GA), Memorial Park Houston (TX), Centennial Park (Nashville, TN), and Frederik Church’s Olana in the Hudson Valley (NY). The work of the firm has been featured in numerous national and international publications and is the subject of a monograph published by Princeton Architectural Press.