A Garden for Everyone
Enjoy your visit
The magic is worth the wait. Here, on 1,050 acres in the Brandywine Valley, you'll find the season of a lifetime at Longwood Gardens. Just 12 miles north of downtown Wilmington, Delaware, Longwood jolts your senses out of the every day. We've outlined three distinct ways to enjoy this world-class gem--for families, for couples, and for homeowners who want new ideas. Whatever your reason for visiting, you'll find inspiration that lingers for a long time.
Left: Tulips along the Flower Garden Walk.
Sarah Woods and her daughter, Ansel, sit perched on a cartoonish painted throne, dappled in sunlight. Here in the Bee a-Mazed Children's Garden, that kind of whimsy rewards parents and kids. "Every time I come here, I re-energize," Sarah says.
She's not alone. For families, Longwood offers the chance to learn together and to unplug from the noise of modern life.
Inside the expanded conservatory, plaques carry Latin plant names, and brochures detail the global design influences of the stunning building--standard stuff for most public gardens. Look closer, though, and you'll notice five small stands scattered throughout the conservatory. These "stamp stations" offer kids a chance to fill in the blanks in their stamp hunt booklets and read about what a gardener, a volunteer, or a painter does.
Left: Families particularly enjoy the gardens.
These simple interactive touches, mixed with some hands-on group events, draw all ages to Longwood. Children's maps highlight places to see butterflies and birds and turtles, while special programs such as Story Time and Garden Adventure bring children together to sing, play, and plant with garden staffers. A Family Ice Cream Series draws youth performances to the gardens, and garden exploration tours teach youngsters about the beauty of Longwood.
Mary Luca, in between chasing her little ones through the Children's Garden, sums up the appeal. "I've been coming here since I was a child," she says. "They give you a different reason to visit all the time."
Left: Paths wind through dozens of out-of-the-way spots, such as the Wisteria Garden, with its violet blooms.
Longwood may be the most romantic place in the Brandywine Valley. Even on a busy day, you can feel as if you have the gardens all to yourself. Walk down to the sloping hillside of Peirce's Woods through the sunlight falling on native azaleas and cottony foam flowers, and you'll discover a pair of lakes and the Love Temple, a cupola-topped structure perfect for relaxing by the water. Near the lakes, the Italian Water Garden features tiled pools and fountains that evoke a hidden Tuscan oasis. Paths wind through dozens of out-of-the-way spots, such as the Wisteria Garden, with its rough-hewn arbors and violet blooms, and the area around the six-story Chimes Tower, with its hourly carillon serenade.
At the Terrace Restaurant, you can have a glass of wine and dessert or a full meal. It makes a great place to relax and schedule the rest of your day--even if you plan on doing nothing more than finding a slant of late-afternoon sunlight in which to doze. Sometimes, nothing's more romantic than that.
Left: The six-story Chimes Tower
For the Home
A public garden such as Longwood might intimidate the home gardener. If you follow our tips, you can get great ideas and inspiration for your home, even though there are more than 1,000 acres and 11,000 plants to see.
Don't let the size overwhelm you. Start by breaking Longwood--or any public garden--into a series of "rooms." Stroll the paths in Peirce's Woods and along the Hillside Garden to see how a meandering trail can add an air of mystery to a garden of any size. As you walk, take in the plants and their environments to see what might flourish in a similar location at your home.
Left: The end of the Flower Garden Walk as you enter Pierce's Woods.
Another Visitor Favorite
The Flower Garden Walk is another visitor favorite. Longwood's display of seasonal flowers is stunning. Study how they have used the flowers and combined the colors along the 1⁄8-mile-long walk. One fantastic combination is the lily-flowered ‘Ballerina' tulip underplanted with ‘Penny Orange' pansies. Another tip we learned was to buy extra plants for accents when planting your flower beds. Three of our favorite containers (pictured) at Longwood were planted with flowers left over from the borders. Not only did the containers look great, but they also tied back into the colors of the adjacent walk.
Next, wander over to the Idea Garden. This area inspires and informs the home gardener with more home-scaled planting beds. You'll find new plants that are coming into the marketplace as well as beds filled with plants that fall into a specific theme.
Left: One of the neatest things about visiting Longwood as a home gardener is that you still have time to re-create many of the looks you see inside the Conservatory in your own garden this spring.
See Spring in all its Glory
The best reason of all to explore Longwood now is to see spring in bloom inside the Conservatory. In fact, one of the neatest things about visiting as a home gardener is that you still have time to re-create many of the looks you see inside the Conservatory in your own garden this spring. Their displays inside are six or so weeks ahead of what you could do outside.
Longwood Gardens: 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348; www.longwoodgardens.org or (610) 388-1000.
Left: The Exhibition Hall connects the Main Conservatory to the newly renovated East Conservatory. The floor is flooded with a thin layer of water to look like a sheet of glass.
The Perfect Take-alongs
"A Garden for Everyone" is from the February 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.