If you are ever in the Philadelphia area for more than a couple of days, I highly recommend taking time to visit Longwood Gardens in nearby Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. It is an hour drive west of center city Philadelphia or only 38 minutes from where my wife, Mary, and I stayed in Drexel Hill, PA just outside of Philly. Drexel Hill, by the way, was a great central location for touring both Philly and areas nearby. [HINT: They only let so many people into the garden each hour so I recommend buying your tickets online for the day and hour you want to enter. This is particularly critical during the busy summer months and holiday display times. Once in, you can stay as long as you like and can get your hand stamped if you want to leave and come back later on the same day.]
First a short history – Longwood Gardens is located on slightly more than 1000 acres of rolling hills in the beautiful Brandywine Valley . The area was first used by the native Lenni Lenape tribe but was eventually taken over by the English and sold to a Quaker farmer by William Penn’s commissioners. The Pierce family later planted an arboretum on 15 of the original 402 acres. The arboretum became known as Pierce’s Park and was enjoyed by locals for picnics, reunions and other outdoor activities. Several generations later, the family decided to sell the land to a lumber company. That’s when Pierre du Pont stepped in to buy the property in 1906 primarily to save the trees –at the time, one of the best collection of trees in the nation.
Pierre had a love of gardening and began to see his property as an opportunity to design and plant an extraordinary garden to in which he could entertain his family and friends. Before his death in 1954, Pierre, through a foundation, ensured that Longwood would continue on as a garden that the public could enjoy.
Today Longwood Gardens is filled with tree shaded walkways, secluded gardens, fabulous fountain displays, a prairie-like meadow and the amazing 4-acre conservatory.
The conservatory is filled with 4,600 different plants – many blooming and ever changing – fountains, ponds with waterlilies, orchids, trees, peaceful walkways and so much more. A photographer could spend all day just in this one building.
The main fountain display fires off for a 15 minute special performance every hour on the quarter hour during the day but at 9 PM on Thursdays – Sundays during the summer months they they are lit up with an ever changing array of colored lights and set to music. Truly spectacular!
The meadow walk at first looked like just a walk through a field of brown grass but on closer inspection turned out to be filled with wildflowers and birds. We were fortunate to see a Baltimore Oriole nest (basically a woven sack hanging from a branch of an old oak tree) with birds flying in and out. Amazing!
We took two days to explore the gardens – could have spent days. No doubt there is something new to see every week. Whether you are a garden lover or photographer or both….put Longwood Gardens on your must do list!
Other places to see in the area (and so much more – stop by the Brandywine Visitors Bureau near the entrance to Longwood Gardens https://www.brandywinevalley.com/
Philadelphia – too much to see to list here but go to https://www.visitphilly.com/
Mushroom farms – Kennett Square, PA https://www.mcall.com/entertainment/food-drink/mc-xpm-2011-07-19-mc-mushroom-kennett-tour-0720-20110719-story.html
Hagley Museum – where Du Pont got started making gunpowder https://www.hagley.org/
Winterthur – home of the Du Ponts http://www.winterthur.org/
Valley Forge – George Washington’s encampment during the Revolution https://www.nps.gov/vafo/index.htm