Mt. Cuba to public: Come on down!

An elegant lawn connects the Main House to more formal gardens in Mt. Cuba Center, a woodland wildflower garden in Hockessin, DE. ( MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer ).

This is a big deal: Mt. Cuba Center outside of Wilmington is unlocking its beautiful, hand-forged steel gates and hosting truly open "open days" - without reservations - on Fridays and Saturdays beginning April 19 and ending Nov. 9. Until now, getting in to see this special place has been a matter of planning ahead, phoning in a reservation, etc., not exactly conducive to a spontaneous outing. It wasn't very visitor-friendly, either.

At Mt. Cuba, you'll see loads of native hydrangeas and other plants. Natives of the Eastern United States are what Mt. Cuba studies, plants, trials and promotes, and for all those folks who think natives aren't very exciting, plan on a trip. You'll be amazed, and likely come home, as I always do, with a mental list to plant some of the specimens on display.

Hours on Fridays and Saturdays are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mt. Cuba has 600 acres in a picturesque corner of Delaware, about an hour from Philadelphia. I've been many times, and for a long time, couldn't understand why the place wasn't overrun with visitors. Truth is, every time I write about it, people call and email to say, "I never even heard of that place!" So, whether you've heard about it or not, go. Springtime, with all the wildflowers in bloom, is especially lovely.