One of our favorite garden destinations, beautiful Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, is getting a major makeover. The centerpiece of this 1,050-acre showplace, Longwood’s elegant five-acre conservatory complex, is being expanded and refreshed.
Longwood is a must-see for any gardener or landscaper, and well worth the trip for anyone else, at any time of year. Originally purchased from William Penn in 1700 by the Pierce family, Longwood began as a working farm. Pierre S. du Pont built the estate into a garden paradise, adding formal gardens, fountains, water features, an outdoor theater, a huge pipe organ and an extravagant conservatory.
Over the decades Longwood has seen many expansions and upgrades, but none as extensive as the one currently in progress. The gardens remain open, but the area surrounding the huge conservatory is undergoing major construction. For details on Longwood and their expansion plans, I recommend visiting their website at https://longwoodgardens.org/longwood-reimagined, but here’s a summary of the changes in progress:
A totally new West Conservatory, built in the 19th century tradition of glasshouses but enhanced with new, sustainable technologies, is the centerpiece and largest component of the project. Like many of Longwood’s renowned features, this 32,000-square-foot addition will rise from a pool on which the entire building will seemingly float, while its islands of interior Mediterranean-inspired gardens will be set amid pools, canals, and fountains in an exquisite tapestry-like design.
Longwood’s prized Cascade Garden is being relocated, reconstructed, and preserved by a team of scholars, landscape architects, preservation experts. This 3,800-square-foot custom-built, stand-alone jewel box houses a tropical garden, with walkways that thread their way through a wonderland of waterfalls and exotic plants.
The existing collection of Bonsai, many of which are more than a century old, will be expanded to become one of North America’s most outstanding bonsai collections. A new outdoor Bonsai Courtyard will allow many more trees to be on display at one time, artfully displayed in an outdoor gallery space. The new Bonsai Courtyard, enclosing a relocated, renewed and enhanced Waterlily Court, will be the gateway to the new West Conservatory and Cascade Garden.
Longwood’s beloved century-old Orchid House will be preserved and expanded to a gallery-like space surrounding guests with hundreds of orchids. A new glass roof, new and restored display cases, restored bronze windows, custom frame trellises, and other improvements will revitalize this already stunning display space. The orchid collection at Longwood has to be seen to be believed.
New, imaginative outdoor pathways and vistas will expand and connect the Conservatory grounds from east to west, showcasing the beauty of the Brandywine Valley; open meadows, a sweeping terrace leading toward a stand of hundred-year-old sycamores, a shaded promenade, and vistas of surrounding countryside. A new public restaurant will overlook the spectacular fountain displays.
Marjorie and I are already planning a visit to Longwood in 2022, because the amazing lighting artist Bruce Munro is returning for a second exhibition this summer. Starting June 30th, Longwoods acres of outdoor gardens will glow with millions of colored lights. It’s unforgettable.
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.
This article originally appeared on Chillicothe Gazette: Changes coming to spectacular Longwood Gardens