Gardens and Critters in Wilmington

We have (touch wood!) had a mild Winter. We have certainly had days of perishing temperatures but no snow. No shoveling is a win for me. This has given us the opportunity to get out and exploring – even though my instinct is definitely to burrow in and hibernate. This weekend’s wanderings took us to Wilmington, Delaware, as its a place we have passed through a lot but never stopped.

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The two offspring who were accompanying us vetoed a few suggestions so out first stop ended up being the Marian Coffin Gardens. These are the gardens of a 19th Century mansion named Gibraltar – because it is built on a rock – that is now a decaying ruin. That was actually the appeal of the place for me because the gardens are also largely abandoned, though maintained as a preserve and green space.

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Marian Coffin, the landscape artist who designed the gardens, was an impressive person. Self-educated, she was one of only four women to be admitted to MIT in 1901. Despite those educational credentials, she was rejected by all of New York’s architectural firms. Not to be defeated, she founded her own business and made it a complete success. The terraced gardens of Gibraltar was a commission she undertook in 1916. They must have been gorgeous in their heyday but they have been deteriorating for 50 years so it was hard to imagine how splendid they must have looked. I do imagine, however, that we chose the worst time of year to visit because so much of the plant life is also dead or dormant.

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Next stop was the Brandywine Zoo. This small zoo has free entry off-season and that was definitely a smart time to visit because it is pretty small. We had been concerned that the animals might all be cosied up in their indoor enclosures but actually the opposite was true and they were all out and moving around, enjoying the blue skies and sunshine despite the cold. Highlights were the red pandas, the serval, and the lemurs. The focus of our visit, however, was the capybara. We went to the zoo precisely because it has capybara and our 15 year old is obsessed with them.

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We barely scratched the surface of Wilmington on this visit. In fact, we barely poked the surface. We will definitely need to go back for more exploration.

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8 thoughts on “Gardens and Critters in Wilmington

  1. I’ve never been here (and I made my first visit to Wilmington 50 years ago…) we go there fairly often. I’ll look this place up! I would suggest 2 museums: Delaware Contemporary and Delaware Art Museum. For the former, it’s best to see if the exhibits interest you as it’s not a collecting museum. For the latter, it has a nice collection and I LOVE the labyrinth they have in the sculpture garden.

    • Thanks for the recommendations. I was actually campaigning for the Delaware Art Museum because I am a fan of the Pre-Raphaelites but the boys were not in the mood for an art museum that day and our schedule was actually a bit tricky that day for aligning neatly with opening hours. We fully intend on going back though and will definitely check out those museums.

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