My love affair with Longwood Gardens began in infancy. For the first 11 years of my life, I was fortunate to live right on the grounds of this renowned public garden in Kennett Square, PA. It was my backyard playground. Many happy hours were spent with family and friends roaming the gardens accessed from the Red Lion Row complex that once housed Longwood employees and their families.
I have an intimate relationship with the gardens that few people would understand. And, although I’ve witnessed some drastic changes over the years, I choose to embrace these modifications and the positive effects they have generated on the garden and the community. Change is inevitable after all.
Last week, we made an unexpected trip to southeastern Pennsylvania to visit family and friends. I never miss an opportunity to visit Longwood when in the area. And, while the weather was not ideal the day we visited, there were still many spring plants and bulbs blooming. Considering I was coming from central Vermont, this was a welcome sight!! 🙂
After getting “scanned” in at the visitor center, we strolled through the underground tunnel and made a right hand turn towards the formal “flower garden walk” with its mass plantings of tulips.
After meandering along the Flower Garden Walk, we headed on down through the woods and towards the Italian Garden area. Under the canopy of the trees in Pierce’s Woods, some early wildflowers were starting to bloom.
After walking about outside and around the historic Pierce-du Pont house and Pierce’s Woods, we ventured into the Main Conservatory to get warm. Construction has begun for the new Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience renovation project. Over the next 3 years, 17 acres of land including parts of the conservatory and grounds will be transformed and updated. While under construction, the main area of the conservatory and the east conservatory will remain open.
Stepping inside a warm conservatory overflowing with flowers on a cold day always reminds me of a page from one of my favorite children’s books – Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney. I relate to Miss Rumphius – a librarian (like me) – who set out to do 3 things in her life – visit faraway places (like me) , live by the sea (like me) and make the world more beautiful (I’m still striving to do that!) I love the line from the book that describes stepping into a conservatory on a wintry day – “the warm, moist air wrapped itself around her, and the sweet smell of jasmine filled the air.”
The Orangery was filled with a display of lilies, poppies and hanging baskets of daisies.
In the East Conservatory, I was drawn to the fountains – always trying to capture cascading water droplets!
At the far end of the East Conservatory, the staff is using this area to highlight some of the greenhouse collections that are no longer accessible during the renovations. The day we were there they had some of the bonsai plants on display – always a favorite of ours.
We exited the main conservatory and walked down to investigate the main fountain area. Several years ago, this area was completely renovated and I had not seen it up close and personal. Some of the fountains were flowing – much to my delight!
Some of the detail of the restoration of the back wall of the fountain display. The stone and masonry work in this area had deteriorated over the years and enjoyed a complete makeover.
From the main fountain garden, we enjoyed a brief respite at the Terrace Restaurant where I thoroughly enjoyed sipping on a hot chocolate laced with Bailey’s Irish Cream. It definitely took the chill off! After our hot beverage, we continued to the Chimes Tower and the Hillside Garden area.
Throughout the Hillside Garden, there were wildflowers and shrubs blooming.
And lots of species of Winter-Hazel in bloom.
Finally, one last photo – from an area in the Idea Garden. There was no explanation for this section of the garden or the “artistry” that is represented here. A plaque stated that it was developed in collaboration with a local artist and teacher. I imagine that it represents an “urban” space gone wild – with a representation of the types of plants that will self-sow in such an environment if left unchecked. Thoughts anyone??