"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Longwood Gardens: Part One

One of the main reasons we came to the Brandywine Valley was to see these gardens, and they did not disappoint.  Like the Butchart Gardens, the place is so immense that I am going to need more than one post just to show you the highlights.

Longwood Gardens was originally the home and estate of two Quaker brothers, the Pierces, who planted a vast arboretum. At some point they were unable to keep the land and the trees were in danger of being cut. Pierre duPont bought the property, saved the trees and continued growing the arboretum and gardens around the homestead. Pierre duPont (of the duPont chemicals family) was clearly an exceptional man, with oodles of money, and something of a Renaissance man as well.  Over the years the Gardens have expanded to include the largest conservatory (greenhouse) I have ever seen, a children's garden, acres of fountains, a topiary, three home sized tree houses, immense formal flower gardens, and more.

Outside of the visitor's center were spectacular Fall annual plantings, and it took us a long time to get past those before we even got inside.  All the plants throughout the gardens look unbelievably healthy and lush. 

Once into the Visitor's Center and after seeing the short history film about Longwood, we were advised to head toward the Open Air Theater, which is a large fountain display accompanied by John Phillip Sousa music. While it's not the Bellagio, it is entertaining. A little variety in the music would make it even better. 

Pierre was really into fountains, and I believe he did much if not all the designing and engineering himself. Quite a feat considering that most of them are changing displays of heights, intensities and colored lights. 

Along the Flower Garden Walk, the colors of the perenial blossoms are arranged in a long rainbow sequence, starting with purples and very gradually moving to reds, oranges, yellows and finally whites.  Although this means that each area was basically monochromatic, there was an artful variety of sizes, shapes, textures and foliage so that the design was very effective. These were in the pink to red section.

There are three super-sized tree houses in the gardens. 
This is the Canopy Cathedral Treehouse. It looks very Nordic inside and out. 

This one is called the Birdhouse Treehouse.

Where the tree houses are relatively"tiny," the Conservatory is Worlds Fair-sized. In fact, duPont was inspired by the Worlds Fairs he attended.  This view shows only about half of the building.

I can't even begin to describe all that is in there, but I'll take a stab at it in the next post.  Let me just say that we spent a very long time in there and saw the four coolest things I have ever seen in a garden. 

But, jumping ahead, after the Conservatory we were pretty overstimulated and just headed in the general direction of the exit, missing the Idea/Trial Garden, the Children's Corner, the Hillside Garden, the Eye of Water and the Oak and Conifer Knoll. Well, we need something new to see when we come back. But we did see the Garden Railway and it was very fun.

We staggered around yet another multiplex fountain thing...

...and finally through the Topiary Garden, (viewed here from the small but fragrant Rose Garden) which I'm really glad we saw.

So, tomorrow I'll tell you about the four coolest things ever. Can't wait?

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