Thursday, September 26, 2013

Longwood Gardens, PA

Saturday morning I rode with friends up to Longwood Gardens, PA. I've been wanting to come here for a while as I've only ever heard great things about the place. It was purchased by Pierre Samuel du Pont in 1906 who after discovering that there was a sawmill and a contract to fell many old trees, bought the property and the contract, saving many that were centuries old. He added more trees, created beautiful gardens and added water features. He'd always loved water and designed fountain gardens around the property. “As a child I was always delighted to behold flowing water and confess to still feel a thrill at the sight of clear water running freely from a faucet.”
 Looking across the Topiary to the Conservatory.
The Italian Garden.
Keisha and Chet roaming around the fountains.
The gardens were obviously a popular spot for photographing personal events. I saw an engaged couple having their picture taken and this girl was having her photo taken to go on invites for her fifteenth birthday. I also saw an odd couple, a guy in a woman's sari with a lady photographing him as he posed by the flowers. I was itching to ask what the images were to be used for but they didn't come across as very approachable so I held back.
These gardens are the first gardens in the whole time I've been in the States that reminded me of all the beautiful formal gardens in England. These are spectacular with obviously so much thought, care and hard work gone into creating the flower beds. Every conceivable color is bursting forth from flowers, buds, berries and leaves, so many varieties, and many plants so huge that it was possible to believe oneself to be in tropical climes. There were many times as I walked about when I was reminded of Hever Castle or Sissinghurst Gardens in England. Even the layout of the gardens had a European feel.
Fountains, ponds, a lake and other water features such as a serpent trickling water into an urn or an ornate spigot spouting water into a pool were dotted throughout the gardens,many taking me by surprise as I rounded a corner or stepped down into a courtyard.
One of the main features is the huge 4 acre Conservatory which opened in 1921. A beautiful construction with prettily rounded roofs that had an art nouveau feel. All the heating, plumbing and power is underground so all you see are the magnificent gardens within. Paths link all the rooms in which are housed ferns, fruit, roses, orchids, so many different plants and flowers that it's a joy to walk through and wonder what will be seen next.
The day we were there was the day after The Philadelphia Dahlia Show had been judged, and the main hall was a riot of vibrant blooms. I'd never seen so many different dahlias before and I was lost as to which ones I should photograph.
We had mostly drifted away from each other during the morning but our group had decided to meet for lunch at the cafe, so I wrenched myself away from the dahlias and went to meet the others.
Lunch didn't keep us for long, we were all wanting to get back into the gardens. There was an area of vegetables and fruits being grown with this cute little children's area.
More beautiful fountains. Many people were just sitting and watching them, enjoying the fine cooling mist that often blew across them.
This walkway seemed very English to me.
And this stone turret that nestled in trees above a pond and had a clock inside that chimed loudly every hour.
This is the Eye of the Water, a feature built in the 60's that sits over a 90,000 reservoir which feeds the waterfall and the main fountain garden.
There's even a small museum of pipe organs at the back of the Conservatory.
I had to go back to the Conservatory to continue looking around, and spotted this almost secret door covered in air plants.
The beautiful lily gardens by the Conservatory. And then I had to go back to those dahlias!
I walked for quite a few miles throughout these gardens and can honestly say that I saw everything at least once, some areas a few times. There is so much to see here, a whole weekend could be spent walking leisurely around. They change out the flower beds for the seasons and hold many events here. Apparently Christmas is beautiful. The Longwood Gardens website is here.
The trip finished in a nicely nostalgic way for me. I discovered a sweet chestnut tree with the grass underneath carpeted with the nuts. I gleefully started picking them up, feeling like a kid back in England again. I noticed an older lady around the other side of the tree doing the same thing. We started chatting and she was from Italy, living here in the States for the same length of time as me. We giggled as we picked up the nuts, glad that nobody else realized what they were and she gave me a popular Italian Christmas cookie recipe, here.   We stuffed our bags until they couldn't hold any more and then said our goodbyes, laughing that we'd meet there under the tree again next year to pick up more chestnuts.
I will definitely return to these gardens, they are truly amazing and packed with colorful, beautiful magic.

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