Longwood Gardens: A Tale of Two Seasons
Updated: Nov 25, 2019
Article by Brent Robillard & Photography by Caroline Bergeron
If visitor statistics at Longwood Gardens are any indication, at least one million people every year have learned, that to enjoy life, you must stop to smell the roses. Since 2012, the venerable botanical gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania have been attracting at least that number of visitors annually.
We first visited Longwood in 2008, when it was attracting a paltry 800 000 or so. But we were not disappointed. In fact, every time we plan an east coast road trip now, we find excuses for the detour. With more than 1000 acres, Longwood offers up cultivated garden beds, rambling woodlands, idyllic meadows, and an unparalleled greenhouse conservatory stocked with exotic plants. It also throws in a concert series, workshops, lectures, and seasonal displays, in case its grounds are insufficient to suffonsify.
Visiting Longwood in the summer is a no brainer, of course. But if you have never been there in the winter, you simply don’t know what you are missing. The following, then, is a visual tale of two seasons.
Admission: Adults $23 ($30)*, Seniors $20 ($27), College Student $20 ($27), Youth 5-18 $12 ($16), Children 4 & under are free
*Christmas admission prices are in brackets
Note: Tickets are for timed admission and really should be purchased in advance. Do not show up at the gates hoping to get in at the last minute!
Without sounding trite, the appeal of Longwood in the summer is access to the extensive grounds--long leisurely strolls through its woodlots, meadows, and themed gardens. You can time your visit to match the various blooming seasons of your favourite flowers. Or you can enjoy a picnic beneath the shade trees at one of the 70 tables, complete with grills.
There are gardens to match all sensibilities, from the wild and woolly English variety , to the French formal garden, or the Italian Renaissance.
Water features abound in the summer, as well. Lakes, ponds, gurgling brooks, engineered canals...but the most recent addition of a $90 million dollar rebuild of the Fountain Garden is sure to astound. The Bellagio in Vegas has nothing on the Festival of Fountains and its LED light show.
And if you are an animal lover--particularly of the airborne type--then Longwood in the summer is the place to be. Butterflies flock to the flowers by the thousands.
Of course the Conservatory, Exibition Hall, and Orangerie are open year-round and offer quiet spaces and exotic variety, no matter the season. Even from an architectural viewpoint, the building is a wonder.
Longwood in winter is a different creature. Organ music and carollers bring a sense of solace to Longwood at Christmas. Beginning after the American Thanksgiving and terminating in the New Year, A Longwood Christmas is a festival of light and colour that warms the soul. Deep reds, muted greens, and creamy ochres flourish in both decoration and foliage.
Poinsettias dominate and cranberries bob in the placid pools.
And, of course, no Christmas is complete without a Christmas Tree. At Longwood, these are not in short supply.
While the indoor show, its decoration, and its lights are the stars of A Longwood Christmas, the grounds offer a dormant beauty in winter. Colours and hues may change, but they do not disappear.
Special events, such as figure skating and fire pit sing-alongs, are also a seasonal draw.
And the hothouse gardens offer respite from the winter blahs and assuage the winter-weary heart.
When Pierre S. DuPont purchased Longwood in 1906, he did so to save the trees. The property had fallen into disrepair. He had no illusions then of the grand botanical gardens that exist today. But the entrepreneur grew fascinated with the farm's potential, and perhaps even a bit obsessed with its development. Today it fulfils its mission of "inspiring people through excellence in garden design, horticulture, education, and the arts" all year long.