In 2011-2012, I did a series of four posts on Chanticleer, a pleasure garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania, US. These were very popular, and the second, Chanticleer Part 2: Garden Seating, is my most popular post ever by a large margin. I intended to profile another local garden this year but have been slow to choose one. My two recent trips to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, US, reminded me how much it has to offer so I will be profiling Longwood this year.
Longwood Gardens is a 1,077 acre public garden with a four-acre indoor conservatory. The property was originally purchased by the Peirce family from William Penn in 1700 to establish a farm. In 1906, the farm was purchased by Pierre du Pont, the industrialist and driving force behind the E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, primarily to preserve the spectacular trees. From then into the 1930s, Pierre du Pont created most of what is there today before turning Longwood over to a foundation in 1946. Almost anything horticultural that you would want to see is found at Longwood: extensive native woodlands, a rose garden, elaborate French inspired fountains with shows set to music, comprehensive teaching gardens, majestic conservatories, an Italian water garden, treehouses—I can’t even list everything.
In my first post, Groundcovers, Thinking Outside the Box, I focused on the unusual plants that Longwood masses as groundcovers. On my second visit, I took my family to see the amazing light displays created at Longwood by British lighting designer and installation artist, Bruce Munro. We arrived around 7 pm, ate dinner at their lovely cafe with outdoor seating, and toured the gardens as the sun set and it became dark enough to see the Munro installations.
I am not going to say much about the Munro installation except that it is fantastic. It was so much more than I expected, including an entire woodland turned into a painter’s canvas, and I am so glad that I didn’t miss this unique experience. I apologize to my non-local readers but the only good photos I got were of the small entry installations, and they are included at the beginning and end of this post.
What I am going to say is that the light exhibit gives visitors a great reason to see Longwood as the sun sets and after dark. The gardens are open until 11 pm from Wednesday through Saturday during the exhibit. The purchase of special timed entry tickets is required, although the entry fee is unchanged. This is a magical time in any garden, but it is especially wonderful in a place as expansive as Longwood. We wandered from one end to the other after dinner as we waited for dark on the longest day of the year. Here is more of what we saw:
From the water lily pools, we headed to the Idea Gardens which contain large individual areas displaying sun and shade perennials (photo above), annuals, vegetables and fruit, roses, vines, grasses, and groundcovers as well as a charming outdoor children’s garden (there is an amazing indoor children’s garden in the conservatories which should not be missed by children of all ages).
This is my only other photo of the Bruce Munro lighting, and it is of the relatively small but quite lovely sculptural installations by the front entrance. Some of the other installations cover acres and need to be seen to be believed.
Although you can see a small part of Longwood at night if you attend a musical event or a fireworks and fountains show, both of which I highly recommend, the Munro exhibition invites you to wander over a major portion of the garden at night. If you are anywhere near Longwood, you shouldn’t miss it—now until September 29.
Nursery Happenings: The nursery is closed until the fall. Thanks for a great spring season!
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