“I want this to be a place where people will learn to appreciate our native plants and to see how these plants can enrich their lives so that they, in turn, will become conservators of our natural habitats."
Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland
Mt. Cuba Center is a botanical garden with a focus on native plants and ecosystems. We have over 50 acres of display gardens and over 500 acres of natural lands. We are open for visitation Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, April through November. Public tours are offered at select times and private tours are available by appointment.
Mt. Cuba Center's mission is to inspire an appreciation for the beauty and value of native plants and a commitment to protect the habitats that sustain them.
Mt. Cuba Center is the former home and family estate of Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland. In 1935, the Copelands built a stately Colonial Revival manor house near the village of Mt. Cuba, outside of Wilmington, Delaware. The Copelands were prominent members of the community. Mr. Copeland served as President and Chairman of the DuPont Company, while Mrs. Copeland was a leader in many community and cultural organizations.
Mr. and Mrs. Copeland shared an interest and enthusiasm for plants and gardening. Shortly after completing their house, they embarked on a mission to design and develop a series of garden spaces on their estate. The Copelands called upon well-known Philadelphia landscape architect, Thomas W. Sears, to plan the formal gardens and terraces around the house. In the 1950s, the Copelands selected noted landscape designer, Marian C. Coffin, to design the Round Garden. Later, in the 1960s, the Copelands hired landscape architect Seth Kelsey, who helped them develop the woodland wildflower gardens with native plants, design their ponds, and plan many woodland garden paths.
Throughout this time and into the 1970s, the Copelands were acutely aware of a changing land ethic. Mrs. Copeland, in particular, was increasingly concerned about wildflowers and the impact on them by development and unscrupulous practices. In 1983, Dr. Richard Lighty was hired by the Copelands as their first Director of Horticulture. The Copelands expanded their horticultural endeavors to study native plants of the Appalachian Piedmont, the beginnings of a botanic garden on a private estate.
In the late 80s, Mt. Cuba Center began hosting visitors by offering docent-led tours during the spring. Professional horticulturists, botanists, educators and landscape architects came to experience the naturalistic garden and learn about plants that some had only read about. This was one of the many steps in fulfilling the role of a botanic garden. Another step was the documentation of plant collections by staff for display and research.
In 2001, Mrs. Copeland passed away and this event ushered in a new chapter for Mt. Cuba Center. It was no longer a botanic garden on a private estate but a public garden for all to be inspired about native plants.
In 2005, the first Wildflower Celebration made its debut on the last Sunday of April. Coinciding with the height of woodland wildflower bloom time, this was a chance for visitors to stroll freely and interact with staff. Continuing education classes started in 2006 for those who wished to engage with us through topics of interest. In 2007, the tour schedule was expanded to include the fall season and many weekends. In 2011, a distance learning program called Mt. Cuba Center Connect was launched to meet the needs of the public who could not attend classes onsite. The new Trial Garden was unveiled in July of 2012, showcasing a 5000 square-foot shade structure. Our commitment to providing topnotch research information to the public was solidified with this upgrade.
Today, through horticulture, education, research, and visitation, Mt. Cuba Center strives to fulfill its mission to inspire an appreciation for the beauty and value of native plants and a commitment to protect the habitats that sustain them.