Behind the Scenes at Longwood Gardens

This past September, I attended The Garden Bloggers Fling in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia was an amazing choice for the 2023 Fling. Featuring 38 public gardens over 30 square miles, Philadelphia is truly a gardener’s dream destination.

The first stop on our 2023 Fling in Philadelphia was Longwood Gardens.

A public garden started in the 1800s by Samuel and Joshua Peirce, Longwood Gardens was purchased by Pierre S. du Pont in 1906. He had an incredible vision and continued to add many of the large features over the years, including the Conservatory, Open Air Theatre, illuminated fountains and the Main Fountain garden, which was unveiled to the public in 1931, the last major installment during du Pont’s life. He passed away in 1954.

Longwood Gardens currently covers 1.077 acres of outdoor gardens and 20 indoor gardens within a 4.5-acre group of heated greenhouses. One of the highlights of the garden is Longwood’s Conservatory. This famous conservatory contains 4,600 different types of plants and trees. It hosts hundreds of horticultural and performing arts events each year.

One of the popular seasonal events is the Chrysanthemum Festival. This is when they showcase one of the largest and oldest chrysanthemum collections in North America.

We were fortunate to be able to tour behind the scenes at Longwood for the first hour or so of our visit. And, while we were early for the start of their Chrysanthemum Festival, we did have the pleasure of seeing the prep for the festival and the different stages of the plants and how they create the wonderful displays. While I confess to not necessarily being a chrysanthemum fan, I could totally appreciate all the hard work over a long period of time to grow over 200 cultivars and prune and shape them to create amazing displays.

Here are a few pictures of how they grow the mums in different ways and then modify them into different shapes like balls and fans. It was especially interesting to hear from employees on the care required to make sure the final product is successful, and how they may have only one backup “plant structure” in case one doesn’t work out.

The employees also seemed very dedicated to Longwood and have enjoyed watching the expansion over the years to the incredible modern greenhouses and facilities that exist.

I loved this quote that we read during our presentation: “Longwood Gardens is the living legacy of Pierre S. du Pont bringing joy and inspiration to everyone through the beauty of nature, conservation and learning.”

I am in awe of someone who had the vision and forethought to create such a lasting legacy and used their wealth for something that inspires visitors with the beauty of nature. He had a long-term focus on conservation and supported the industry with education and employment opportunities.

Please add Longwood Gardens to your must-see list if you are travelling in the area or just looking for excellent horticultural destinations. And stay tuned as I share more about Longwood and the rest of our Philadelphia Fling.

To hear more about my experience at this year’s Fling, listen to this episode of Down the Garden Path Podcast.

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