Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Recently included in TripAdvisor’s top 10 U.S. public gardens, Longwood Gardens is considered by many as one of the great botanical gardens of the world. In the early 1900s, industrialist and conservationist Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954) decided to save a collection of historic trees from being sold for lumber and bought the small farm near Kennett Square where he proceeded to create the heart of today’s Gardens. In 1946, the Gardens were turned over to a foundation set up by Mr. du Pont.
Today, Longwood Gardens encompasses 1,077 acres of gardens, woodlands, meadows, fountains and an extraordinary 4.5 acre conservatory. Longwood has 20 outdoor gardens, among the highlights:
Caryopteris Allee, or border of bluebeard, plus a rose garden, lilacs, peonies, wisteria, and much more.
Chimes Tower and waterfall features a waterfall and the 61-foot-tall Chimes Tower and the 62-bell Longwood Carillon.
The Topiary Garden has more than 50 specimens in 20 different shapes – from cubes and spirals and birds to a table and chair. The topiaries are sheared every July and August. There’s also an analemmatic sundial constructed by Mr. du Pont in 1939 which is accurate to within two minutes.
Bee-aMazed Children’s Garden takes its inspiration by honeybees, featuring three major areas: the Honeycomb Maze, Flower Fountain, and Buzz Trail.
Peirce’s Park, where some of the trees estimated to be more than 200 years old, has one of the finest collections of trees in the nation. Noteworthy plants: Canada hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata), tulip-tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), London plane-tree (Platanus xacerifolia), littleleaf linden (Tilia cordata)
Longwood Conservatory. Pierre du Pont built his first conservatory so he could have oranges in the winter. While it didn’t work out for him, today there are oranges in the conservatory, along with a twenty different types of bananas, from the 30-foot plantain to dwarf varieties that can be grown in a container. The original Conservatory was built in 1919, but has been expanded to 4.5 acres which shelters 5,500 types of plants and 20 indoor gardens. FYI, according to Longwood: “A leisurely stroll through the display areas takes about 1½ hours and covers about ½ mile.”
The conservatory includes roses, bonsai, ferns (Noteworthy plants: Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata), rabbit’s-foot fern (Davallia fejeensis), staghorn fern (Platycerium), wooly tree fern (Dicksonia fibrosa), bird’s-nest fern (Asplenium nidus), maidenhair fern (Adiantum)). There’s also a display of plants found in Mediterranean-type climates.
Orchid House. The collection includes more than 3,200 different types of orchids with an estimated 200 to 500 plants at peak bloom at any one time. Noteworthy plants: cattleyas (Cattleya), lady-slippers (Paphiopedilum), pansy orchids (Miltonia), dendrobiums (Dendrobium), moth orchids (Phalaenopsis).
Longwood’s performance series. Longwood also has a tradition of showcasing top performing artists since du Pont first welcomed his good friend John Philip Sousa to the Conservatory Gardens in 1922. More than 400 events are scheduled each year, from organ and carillon concerts to Open Air Theatre productions.
Longwood Gardens is located on Route 1 near Kennett Square, PA and is open daily. [ info ]