Friday, 15 July 2016

Longwood Gardens and why you shouldn't go back to places!

The world is divided in two types of people - 'gardening people' who love nothing more than spending their time mucking about with dirt and 'non-gardening people'  who don't! Can you tell which one I am? 

David is a 'gardening-person'. He loves gardens. He spends hours and hours at home coaxing exotic plants to grow in our harsh Australian soil. In spring, when our quiet little patch of the planet lights up with colour it makes all the work worthwhile - or so he thinks.  I like gardens too - just not working in them!

The definition of an annual is 'disappointment once a year'.   I plant tulips every year, and every year without fail, they flower in early spring exactly during the two weeks in which we are travelling and away from home. I have tried planting them earlier - and later - even changing the dates of our holidays. Nothing ever works. It is always the same - a beautiful riot of colour blooming in our garden for no-one to see, except the twenty-somethings, and whoever heard of a twenty-something son appreciating the beauty of a flower planted by his mother.

Longwood Gardens


Except for tulips, and the occasional very disappointing annual, I avoid gardening as much as possible.  I do love looking at gardens though, and in three decades of travelling together David and I have visited gardens all around the world - in fact I am quite the expert on other people's gardens.

As an expert in this field (self-appointed - is there any other kind!)  I can confidently tell you that Longwood Gardens near Wilmington, Delaware is one of the world's great gardens. Do you remember last week's post on Winterthur and its 90,000 objects d'art - well, Longwood is Winterthur without the objects - pretty close to my idea of heaven. Ironically Longwood was created by another Du Pont, Pierre this time not Henry, who created Winterthur. I got the impression the Du Ponts had a family rivalry going - as in 'my camellias/rhododendrons or whatever are better than yours this year.' Wouldn't you just love to have been a fly on the wall at some of their family get togethers.

The Conservatory, Longwood
Inside the Conservatory

As lovely as Longwood is however, sometimes you just shouldn't go back to places. When David and I first visited Longwood in the year 2000 the twenty-somethings were pre-teens and the gardens were a wonderland of discoveries. Returning in 2016 I think we expected to recapture some of that family magic even without our now-adult children in tow. Perhaps we could have, except our most treasured memory was of the water-platter lilies - huge aquatic plants shaped like serving platters and several feet across. We had never seen anything like them. This time the water-platters were mere pygmies of the lily world, struggling to reach a foot or two in diameter. It turns out they reach their peak in mid-July, several weeks after our visit.  I won't lie - this was a disappointment.

Our second most treasured memory were the water fountains - soaring sprays of water dancing in the air like aquatic ballerinas. Our 2016 visit coincided with the renovation of the main fountain garden. A large area of the gardens was completely closed off, hidden behind huge unattractive wooden screens. As I said - sometimes you just shouldn't go back to places.


Water-platter lilies, Longwood Gardens
Water-platter lilies, in 2009
Water-platter lilies, Longwood Gardens
Water-platter lilies in late June 2016 - not quite the same are they!

Pygmy water-platters and closed water fountains notwithstanding, Longwood is a treasure trove of botanical delights. With 4 acres of indoor gardens in the conservatory and 1,000 acres of outdoor gardens Longwood will repay your visit many times over. I am not going to try to describe it, after all as a 'non-gardening person'  I only know the names of half a dozen plants. For once, I will let my camera do the talking.

Bromeliad at Longwood
I know what this is. It is a bromeliad! We have them at home - David must have planted them.  

Fountains at Longwood
Not all the fountains were closed.

The Conservatory at Longwood.
Inside the Conservatory again.
The Conservatory at Longwood.
And again!
Topiary Garden at Longwood
The Topiary Garden was lots of fun on our first visit with the boys.

Rose Garden at Longwood
Rose Garden

Tips and tricks and things to know: -


Where is Longwood Gardens and when is it open?

  • Longwood's opening hours vary depending on the time of year and the day of the week and whether the Nightscape light and sound show is running. Click here for the full list of hours.
  • Longwood's address is 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania 19348. It is located on US Route 1 a few miles northeast of Kennett Square, PA.

How much does it cost to visit?

  • On non-peak days general admission costs US$20 (adult), US$17(seniors 62 and over) and US$10 (children 5-18 and students with valid student ID). Children aged 4 and younger are free. 
  • On peak days general admission costs US$27, US$24 and US$13 respectively.
  • Click here for Longwood's full range of prices.
My tips!
  • Allow yourself plenty of time. David and I had half a day which was just enough to see most things without rushing too much.
  • Purchase your tickets before the day of your visit if you can. Longwood issues timed-tickets. This means that when buying your ticket you must choose a time to enter the gardens. Once inside you don't have to leave until closing time. You may not be able to purchase tickets on the day of your visit if all the time slots have already been filled. For an explanation of how the timed tickets work go to Longwood's FAQ page here.
  • Don't miss the water-platter lilies. The water lily display is in a courtyard accessed through the Conservatory and is easy to miss. It is open from late May until the end of October.
  • Don't miss the Conservatory. The indoor displays are lovely.

Got to go - I'm off to plant some tulips!

I will publish a new post every Thursday/Friday (depending on your time zone). If you want to follow our travels check back each week or enter your email address in the 'Follow this blog by email' box in the right hand sidebar just below my profile picture.

For all the posts so far on our north-east USA road and cycling adventure click - here

Note: David and I received complimentary entry to Longwood.



42 comments:

  1. The gardens look great but I don't have the expectations you did. Water platter lilies several feet across? Wow. Thanks for the photo from your previous post as it's hard to fathom that.

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  2. THat still looks pretty beautiful to me....

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    1. It was but it will be magnificent when all the work is finished on the main fountain.

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  3. This is always a dilemma. Go someplace new, go back to a place we have loved. Sometimes fond memories should remain just that. And, yet, the temptation, the draw to return is always so strong.

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    1. David and I have been travelling together for so long that more than once we have arrived somewhere only to realise we have been there before but forgotten about it.

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  4. Ha,ha,ha! Your tulips bloom when you travel every year? Why don't you change your travel plans to stay home and enjoy them? I understand your frustration, but if you work so hard to have a beautiful garden you should travel when your garden is 'asleep' Thanks for joining #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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    1. The tulips are smarter than us. They have been known to bloom both early and late to coincide with our attempts to be home to see them.

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  5. The gardens look lovely but it's clear they would have been even more spectacular with full-sized water lilies and the main fountain - unfortunately we can't control these things! When I visited Washington DC, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool was under some kind of renovation as well - it was definitely very different from the pictures I'd seen.

    Time changes everything, doesn't it? I agree that sometimes it's better to leave things as they were in your memory rather than going back and feeling disappointed.

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    1. I always look back on holidays through rose coloured glasses - probably just as well otherwise I might refuse to travel at all.

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  6. I know my memories are sometimes even better than the reality of what happened in the past:) The gardens looked beautiful and your photos were stunning. No place is ever the same twice, sorry it was disappointing the second time. Maybe the 3rd time is the charm:)

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    1. Haha - you might be right. Now we have to go back!

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  7. our tomatoes always come in when we are away in August/September and so our neighbors get to eath them instead of us! This looks wonderful. we now have something to stop when we drive from NYC to Washington, DC. Thanks!

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    1. I wish I had a neighbour like you. I love home grown tomatoes.

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  8. I'm no gardener:) interesting place though:) #the weekly postcard

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    1. I'm not a gardener either but I do love to look at flowers!

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  9. Always tricky whether to return or not. We tend to be return visitors, and most of the time it works out, but not always.

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    1. Sometimes returning to a place is great fun. There is a little village in Brittany, France which we have been to three times. It has huge tides and that is what draws us. On both return visits we had forgotten we had been there until we looked around and realised how familiar it was. It has become something of a family joke now that we keep returning to places we think we haven't been before and then realise we have.

      I just read your post on the Pokemon craze in Australia. I do hope there are no Pokemons in places like Longwood and Winterthur. Imagine the damage which could be done to the gardens by players trampling across the flower beds in search of these creatures.

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  10. Lyn I agree that often returning to spots can be a disappointment. We rarely do but often because there is just so much to see in this world. Longwood Gardens do look beautiful but yest the water lilly comparison made my heart sink. I would have been very disappointed.

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    1. It wasn't just the size of the lilies. It was more the fact that when we saw them the first time the boys were so excited. I think we expected to recapture that memory of having young children and seeing their sheer joy at encountering something new and surprising.

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  11. The gardens look fabulous Lyn! I have such a black thumb, I always worry I'm going to wipe out the flowers just walking through.

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    1. Haha - you and I should definitely never go to a garden together then. We might utterly destroy the place!

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  12. What a gorgeous garden, I am sure if it had been my first time visiting the gardens I would not have been disappointed nor even aware of what wasn't working. Love the water lily plates and the topiary trees.

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    1. We just loved Longwood on our first visit and I am sure once the work is completed (and the lilies have grown) we will love it again.

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  13. I am one of those who like to take a look at gardens but I am terrible at planting (I kill every plant I touch, no joking). Thanks for letting me know about these gardens. I have been to very lovely ones that have stayed in my mind till this day.

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    1. I don't kill every plant I touch, just most of them - lol!

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  14. The gardens look beautiful. Not a gardener though. #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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    1. I'll put you in the 'non-gardening people' category then - lol!

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  15. Longwood Gardens looks lovely - the kind of place I'd really enjoy visiting. I think going back to gardens at different times of year is interesting to see what is in bloom at that time.

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    1. I agree. I wish I lived closer - a bit tricky when you live on the other side of the planet -lol.

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  16. I chuckled at your tulip predicament - I keep missing ours - and I'm a rubbish gardener. Despite the disappointments, Longwood gardens still look glorious, especially the greenhouse. I'd go there at least one, anyway.

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    1. Haha - I am glad I am not the only one who misses the tulips flowering. At least they do flower, I had a succession of years where the possums ate them before they got a chance.

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  17. Well, I have managed to keep a lime tree alive for a few years, but sans limes. So I'm with the other rubbish gardeners. But yes, I love looking at them! Delaware is one state we haven't crossed off, and haven't really known what to see there, other than a few historical sites. Now we do!

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    1. Delaware is a bit of a hidden gem. You should definitely go there. I had a lime tree that actually gave limes for a few years - then it died. I probably killed it but I have no idea how.

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  18. Still looks beautiful to us, but totally understand how sometimes our memories of a place can seem better than the real thing when we see it again. It has happened to us several times.

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    1. My memories of places are always better than the real thing. That's what keeps me travelling. If I remembered things as they actually were I would have more sense and stay home - lol!

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  19. Thanks for the article. We live in NJ next door and have never visited. Maybe in a few weeks we'll go.

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    1. It is amazing how many of us forget to explore the lovely things in our own back yards. I am sure you will enjoy it if you go.

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  20. Carole Terwilliger Meyers 22 July 2016 at 10:48
    I would love to go back to Longwood Gardens. I visited for a special event in the evening and only saw a bit of the gardens. I also was quite disappointed. That topiary garden looks fabulous!

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    1. You need to have plenty of time to just wander about and explore to get the most out of it.

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  21. I will agree - sometimes it's better to cherish fond memories than go back to a place and risk being disappointed. It's hard to recreate a wonderful experience, isn't it?

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    1. Maybe we should just keep going to new places all the time - lol.

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