Winterthur Quarry Garden


Heuchera villosa cv. Purpurea (bottom right) really pops in the grouping of colorful Primrose.

I am on my way home today and had a wonderful trip garden hopping. I was invited to stay the weekend for Memorial Day festivities at my cousin’s mountain home, but wanted to get home for a little much-needed rest. Vacations are not restful! Plus 7.5 hours of driving… Well, grab your coffee, sit and relax while you tour another section of the Winterthur property ….

This was a very beautiful area of the property called the Quarry Gardens. The space has all the elements working in concert to create a peaceful mood. The elements include the natural rock, the built environment, and the abundance of sequential plantings. The design works on the senses of sight, smell, touch, and sound.

There is a large, rough rock face that drops down to a babbling brook filled with fragrant softscape. The basin is filled with gorgeous, colorful Japanese Primrose at this time of year.


As a designer, I was most impressed at how they used the steep topography and the way the visitor was led through the space.


You can see this garden from a variety of viewing positions. At the end of the curved path, one can descend into the basin and sit stream side amongst the Primrose.


The entrance is gated but there is a very pleasant seating area overlooking the Quarry Garden.


Seating Area

It is overflowing with Primrose and other moisture and woodland loving plants. Bulbs and other plants include those starting in March – snowdrops, snowflakes, crocus, squills, and glory-of-the-snow. When we visited, this area peaked with wild columbines and primrose.


Take note the scale of this garden. See the garden bench?



We climbed down to the water and it was such an intimate feel. You almost felt like being in a storybook land filled with fairies and friendly talking animals.


Small Stream

Color was all around – one was enveloped in color.


A key design element is how one feels in a space. You can feel protected in the darkened glen, but look out onto the grassed expanse into bright light, like the way you are brought into a cathedral. You go from intimate to expansive.  One is enclosed by the circulation path designating the space which gives it a more intimate feel.


Scale is important in the planting too with large leafed plants (looks like Ligularia siberica) balancing the delicate primrose.

WiderView-1 Primrose-1

Plants listed from their database:

  • Japanese Primrose, Primula sieboldii, source – Sky Cleft Gardens, American Primrose Society
  • Primula japonica (Candelabra Primrose—lavender, red, white) Primula veris (Primrose—light yellow)

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
This entry was posted in garden and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to Winterthur Quarry Garden

  1. This was my favorite part of the whole garden—all shade plants of course.

  2. What a stunning garden Winterthur has. One of the best I’ve seen.

  3. Indeed spectacular! Thanks for sharing. I am breathless just thinking of the manpower needed to maintain these gardens.

    • At many of these big gardens I did see the gardeners hard at work, but here, we were visiting on a day they were closed to the pubic. I did not see the flurry of gardeners I saw other places.

  4. I’ve got to see Winterthur. What a beautiful setting for a garden. I love all the primrose!

  5. Wow!! Magnificent. Margie

  6. Pearl says:

    What a gorgeous garden! Would love to spend a day there!!

  7. Sharon says:

    Absolutely breathtaking!

  8. Another breathtaking garden! And those lavender / red primrose plants…
    Like daydreaming!
    🙂 Happy Sunday, Donna!

  9. sued51 says:

    Very beautiful…love the photo with the “bridge” in the background…

  10. bittster says:

    Fantastic tour, thanks! love the primroses here and the azaleas from your previous post, also the dawn redwood! I’m looking forward to Longwood and Scott and Chanticleer. You’ve really motivated me to get my head out of my own garden and plan a couple trips, thanks!

    • Garden visiting is especially inspiring when the visitor can take small portions from the huge design and bring it to the scale of the home garden. How plants relate and the massing of them are great motivators when the visitor isolates the portion they can visualize in their own spaces. Hope you find your inspiration.

  11. This is one of the gardens on my bucket list. I like how they use the topography to their advantage in the design. One feels very secluded.

    • It is steep topography that the average homeowner cannot master though. It has to be thought of as a huge rock garden in a way. Plants nest between rocks to avoid erosion of their neighbors. It was a nice spot to see without all the crowds. We were there on a day they were closed fortunately. I did want to purchase the book on Winterthur as I have them from the other big gardens. But, I am in PA at least twice a year, so I will get back to DE to see the garden again.

  12. What a great place – I loved the tour – beautiful captures!

  13. Patrick says:

    Breath taking is often an overused expression but the primrose garden truly is in that category. So wish I could have been there to witness myself.

  14. Phil Lanoue says:

    Truly stunning!

  15. Thank you for the tour. These gardens are absolutley beautiful and you have captured them perfectly! Have a great Memorial Day!

  16. What a beautiful blend of nature and creativity.

  17. sjcourchesne says:

    Absolutely captivating! Thanks for a lovely vicarious visit.

  18. nicole says:

    Donna…This garden is breathtaking! You are right on about the scale! What a feast for the eyes! I hope you have a lovely weekend! And as always your photos are gorgeous!

  19. Thank you so much for taking us along on a guided tour through is amazing garden. Your observations and comments on the design of the garden was very useful, thank you.

  20. A.M.B. says:

    Gorgeous! It sounds like you had a very nice trip!

  21. Fossillady says:

    A lovey tour Donna, the gardens truly are amazing in scale. I wonder if anyone ever sits on the bench amid all the lushness? Take care, Kathi :O)

    • I bet they do sit there. Remember what it was like to make a fort under grandma’s colorful hand crocheted blanket? That is what it was kinda like being enveloped in all that color with the sun peeking through in spots.

  22. What an expansive feel to this secluded garden…it would be wonderful to see how it blooms monthly. I really love the views here….

  23. Fergiemoto says:

    Such beautiful colors in those blooms.
    How wonderful to be surrounded by them!

  24. Suzanne French says:

    I’m the Horticulturist who cares for the Quarry Garden at Winterthur. Thank you so much for featuring our garden on your blog. I’m happy you enjoyed your time among the primroses!

    • Thank you for visiting GWGT. I enjoyed the gardens at Winterthur very much. Much of the landscape design I do is estate work, so I very much appreciate all that the architects have done at this property in creating it, but equally respect what all that the people caring for it do as well. It takes a love of your job to work at such a fine place as this, I am sure.

  25. b-a-g says:

    Just catching up with your tour – fabulous! I’ve often wondered how to display primroses to really show them off. Now I know.

  26. Lin Celoni says:

    OK I am hooked on these primroses. Can you give us a source for them? I am down in zone 8 now. But the short stubby primroses (that I used to think were quite pretty) do ok in my garden . I need some of those ‘long necks’.

    • I am not familiar with their source, but it is listed in the post as Sky Cleft Gardens, American Primrose Society. Possibly you can contact Suzanne French, at Winterthur, in the comment two above yours. She would have this information. Or try Carolyn’s Shade Gardens. I believe she sells the species Primrose.

Comments are closed.