Celebrating the Season at Longwood Gardens

On December 20, 2016 by Sarah C. Geraci

Christmas TreeThere isn’t much time left to indulge in the sights and sounds of the Christmas season. Go visit Santa at the mall. Have a classic holiday movie marathon in your candy cane pj’s. Drive around your town at night and delight in your neighbor’s decorations. And if you’re in the Philadelphia area visit Longwood Gardens. In general, Longwood Gardens is a spectacular display of nature, engineering, horticulture, and tradition. But now through January 8th, is a truly inspiring time to visit. They have gorgeous holiday entertainment.

fullsizeoutput_21a5Longwood boasts over 1,000 acres of outdoor garden space and over four acres of indoor gardens and greenhouses. The park also has three amazing treehouses on the property. Every inch of this space is transformed for the holiday season into a wonderland.

fullsizeoutput_21e2It was a chilly day, but we toured the outside first; visiting two of the three tree houses, the topiary garden, the open air theater fountain show, and the train set.

kids fountainBy that time the Conservatories were a welcome respite from the cold. It was a beautiful variety of rooms with over 6000 seasonal plants. This does not include the other plants that are always there, like the bonsai, the banana, or the orchids…over 500 types! Longwood even has an indoor children’s garden. The babes loved it. Another of the indoor highlights is the music room. The room itself is beautiful, and so is the Fraser fir decorated with music instruments. It must have been over 12 ft tall.

fullsizeoutput_21e6While we were in the music room we chatted up a nearby guard. (All of the staff at Longwood is very nice.) We were given a brief history of the place. It goes something like this.
fullsizeoutput_21e3As with most descriptions about land in America, the area that is now Longwood Gardens was once home to the Lenni Lenape Indians. In 1700 the 402 acre plot of land was bought by a farmer whose grandsons built a 15 acre arboretum on the land. It was one of the finest collections of trees in the nation. The 402 acre farm fell into neglect. It was purchased (rescued) in 1906 by Pierre du Pont. The du Pont family knew great corporate success in America. Pierre du Pont traveled frequently, maintaned a love for gardening and sought to use his riches wisely. The gardens of Longwood Gardens were built over many generations, but it was du Pont that began their design in a “piecemeal” style, having no grand plan to start. Pierre built the first garden in 1907, the Flower Garden Walk. By the summer he was throwing parties in this lovely space, and its popularity encouraged further projects on the land. The Open Air Theater would be completed five years later. After the fountains duPont built Longwood’s first indoor “winter garden.” The conservatory, as large and beautiful as it is today was completed in 1921. The music room was constructed in 1923; an elegant Music Room with walnut paneling, damask-covered walls, teak floors, and a molded plaster ceiling. It was built opening onto the central axis of the main greenhouse.

fullsizeoutput_21e8The public came in droves to see these wonders under glass, fulfilling Pierre’s childhood dream. The du Ponts also had the perfect place for grand entertainment, and they hosted many groups, family, and friends. The guests’ reactions were always the same. They thought it a place beyond compare. By the 1930’s the land had grown to 926 acres. Finally, in 1946, the government gave approval for the Foundation to operate Longwood Gardens as a public garden. Pierre duPont died in 1954. This was not, however, before he had outlined a plan for his property to be well-funded and adapt to life in the future. Some things change. And some things stay the same. I hope nature, and humanities appreciation for nature stays the same.

Merry Christmas.

Thank a tree.

 

 

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