Posted by: gdevi | June 9, 2012

Longwood Gardens

Today we visited Longwood Gardens, an almost 1100 acre garden originally owned by the industrialist Du Pont–Du Pont bought it in the 19th century from two Quaker farmer brothers –the Pierce brothers who had purchased the land from William Penn himself in the 1700s and by mid 1800s had built an incredibly rich arboretum in the Brandywine region of Pennsylvania–Andrew Wyeth country. Du Pont made Longwood his summer residence and was quite a horticulturalist and gardener and Longwoods is the result of his extensive horticultural vision. It is about an hour from Mount Laurel, NJ. From south Jersey, you take 295 S, take Walt Whitman Bridge (still the best view of downtown Philly in my opinion) to 76 E, then get on 95 S, and then 476 N to Chadds Ford and Brandywine and to Longwood Gardens.

It is an incredible garden; I thought I had died and gone to heaven and that this was afterlife really.  The kids and all of us started out by spotting this beautiful weeping beech tree (Fagus Sylvatica Pendula) with its dark green humongous branches almost dragging to the ground; we discovered a small pathway to enter the inside of the tree. Then we started climbing the tree. I don’t think you are supposed to climb the high limbs; so we only climbed the lower limbs. I have not climbed a tree in many many many years now–I used to be a relentless tree climber in my childhood; I used to climb all the mango trees in our yard–mango trees are really the best trees to climb. You can eat as many mangoes as you want when you are up in that tree. So anyway D and I climbed, then we helped Noni climb, then everyone else climbed and it was just beautiful. We were inside that beech tree for a long time. I have decided to buy a weeping beech tree and plant it in our yard somewhere. I might be dead before it gets to be all great and big and beautiful, but someone else might enjoy its beauty, some little kid sometime will climb it, for sure.  We also climbed the dogwoods and tried to climb the hemlocks. The park is full of enormous old hardwood and softwood trees, beautifully planted in sections–dogwoods, beeches, oaks, hemlocks, birches, maples, tulip trees, magnolias (magnolias!). Du Pont was greatly inspired by Italian and French horticultural gardens, particularly the inclusion of fountains in gardens, and Longwood has some of the most beautiful fountains that I have ever seen in a garden. Apparently at several special evenings through the year, these fountains are lighted and there are these brilliants light and sound shows showcasing the fountains. We will come back to see them for sure.

I highly recommend the conservatory as well when you visit the garden.

It is a huge spectacular glass-topped green house essentially, about the size and spread of the White House–really imposing and big — which grows every conceivable species of plants that you can possibly imagine. It suddenly became clear to me that houses with walls, rooms etc are completely superfluous and unnecessary. Put a table right there in front of that Bird of Paradise plant and sit there. I was happy to show so many of these plants to Dayani — Bird of Paradise, for instance. Spanish moss. Giant Mexican cactus. Enormous South American bromeliads. Even Kanakambaram (Crossandra) that I have only seen growing in my house and other houses in south India. Orchids galore; showed D dove orchid and many many more. Carnivorous plants. And an entire spread of water lilies and lotuses. Kumquats, figs, grapes, nectarines. This place has completely filled my heart and head, and has sort of become the screensaver for my mind. “Annihilating all that’s made/ To a green thought in a green shade.”

What a garden, and what a gift to the community, to the world. We were there for nearly 8-9 hours and the kids just loved it. We listened to a jazz band playing in front of the conservatory for a while, and then had a delicious lunch in their cafe. The admission fee, the cafe, everything is priced affordably. We exited through the gift shop, and I bought a small petrified wood sample to take back with me to Lock Haven. Thank you Longwood for a beautiful day. We will be back.


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