A winter visit to Longwood Gardens


How would you like to spend an afternoon in a tropical paradise? For an afternoon’s relief from winter dreariness, beautiful Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania is one of our favorite places. The centerpiece of this 1050-acre showplace is Longwood’s elegant conservatory complex, almost five acres under glass. A rainbow of color at any time of year, the conservatory at Longwood is particularly appealing during the cold winter months.

We visited during late January. Since it was winter and cold, we bypassed the extensive outdoor gardens, which by themselves would be worth spending an entire day and evening in the warm season, and headed straight for the warmth of the huge conservatory.

Entering through the Exhibition Hall, we saw stunning globes of Christmas cactus hanging above us. Bedding plants in a rainbow of color surrounded lush green lawns, fountains and waterfalls. Stately columns support creeping fig and Bougainvillea vines. Huge globes of Cape Primrose hang overhead. We detoured to the rest rooms, which line a bright hallway surrounded by “green walls” of ferns and tropical foliage.

We walked through the “Acacia Passage”, named for the small cinnamon trees covered with fluffy yellow flower clusters arching overhead, past an elegant ballroom with an amazing pipe organ of over 10,000 pipes. Huge baskets of spectacular orchids in full bloom hung above us. The walkway leads to a reflecting pool, shaded by palm trees and surrounded by planters of colorful cyclamen.

The Orchid House was packed with five hundred fragrant plants in full bloom, rotated from Longwood’s collection of more than 5,000 orchids. Each plant has a sign to identify it. Teams of volunteers change out the orchid display five times each week, replacing flowers that have faded with blooms at their peak.

The “Mediterranean Garden” displays blue-gray and silver-foliaged plants adapted to dry, arid landscapes, called “xeriscape” plants. The meandering aisle resembles a dry streambed surrounded by rock outcroppings covered with succulents and cactus.

Camellias and jasmines were in full bloom. Behind the three main halls is the “Garden Walk”, ablaze with annual flowers. We stooped to enter the Children’s Garden, filled with intricate water features and horticultural displays for children, all in miniature.

There would normally be many more smaller, specialized collections and displays, but much of Longwood is under construction. A huge new conservatory is being built, so many of Longwood’s plants are in temporary greenhouses offsite until the project is finished.

Longwood is a must-see for any gardener or landscaper, and well worth the trip at any time of year. Pierre S. du Pont built the estate into a garden paradise. Longwood’s stunning high-ceilinged greenhouses and graceful architecture make a perfect backdrop for thousands of flowering plants in peak condition, year in and year out. In past years we’ve enjoyed the spectacular lighted fountains, some reaching 130 feet high. In nicer weather you can wander the beautiful grounds all day, enjoying ancient trees, bonsai, topiary, reflecting pools, immaculate vegetable and herb gardens, and much more.

You can share our winter walk through Longwood’s conservatory. Visit the GoodSeed Farm Landscapes Facebook page, click on “photos”, then “albums”, then select “Winter at Longwood Gardens.”

Steve Boehme is a landscape designer/installer specializing in landscape “makeovers”. “Let’s Grow” is published weekly; column archives are online at www.goodseedfarm.com. For more information call GoodSeed Farm Landscapes at (937) 587-7021. formation is available online at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.

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