Orchid Extravaganza open through March

Epiphyte orchids hang from the ceiling of the Silver Garden. Photo by Lauren Trumbull.

By Lauren Trumbull

Editorials and Features Editor

Standing at the edge of the grass you slowly inhale the floral fragrance while you let the sun warm the back of your neck. This is the third field you’ve been to at Longwood Gardens, not counting the numerous rooms you entered earlier in the Conservatory, but each garden is more beautiful than the last, creating a new and exciting view with each turn you take.

Longwood Gardens, located in Kennett Square, Pa., contains history dating back to the 1700s when a Quaker farmer, George Pierce, purchased a 402 acre tract of land in East Marlborough Township. The land stayed in the family and one of the exhibits “Peirce’s Park” was born; however after a family death, the park began to deteriorate.

In 1905, the land was sold with a plan to cut down the trees for lumber. When Pierre du Pont, an avid nature lover, heard of this, he purchased the land and renamed it “Longwood.” Throughout the years, he added on to the property, creating new and exquisite.

Until March 31 you can visit Longwood for their annual Orchid Extravaganza, located inside of the Conservatory and features hundreds of orchids out of the thousands on the property.

This year’s special display of orchids can be seen in the following exhibits in the Conservatory: East Conservatory, Exhibition Hall, Acacia Passage, Orchid House, Palm House, North Passage, Fern Passage, Tropical Terrace and Silver Garden.

Immediately upon walking into the East Conservatory, guests are greeted with an arch made of 600 white Phalaenopsis hybrid orchids sitting in a man-made pond. Children and adults threw coins into the water, closing their eyes as they made a wish.

If you are looking to escape the warmth of the Conservatory, guests have the option of wondering into the Ballroom filled with elegant, sparkling chandeliers. The walls are covered in exquisite fabric panels that give a 1920s feel. Today, the Ballroom is used for lectures, galas, dinners and concerts.

Just beyond the Ballroom, du Pont installed a 10,010-pipe instrument into the Conservatory to display his love of music. A large, informational display of organs sits in the room for guests to admire.

After exiting the Ballrooms, guests are hit with the familiar smell of flowers and the feeling of warm air. Greens, blues, reds, yellows and pinks surround you, but one color sticks out the most: purple.

The Orchid Curtain, which sits in Exhibition Hall, features 250 unique orchids, all in the color purple. The orchids frame a glass door lined with mirrors. Every two weeks, the orchids are replaced with fresher ones to replace those that are fading.

As you continue to walk around the Conservatory, you have the option of passing through glass doors and into a hallway deemed Acacia Passage. Here Acacia leprosa trees hang over the arch walkway and a sea of green cascades down from the ceiling. While walking through, soft branches graze the top of your head as you dodge in and out of the plants.

The hallway leads you to more and more rows of flowers. The scent fills your nose as your eyes quickly scan the room for the next best thing to see, when suddenly you’re hit with something recognizable: bananas. In this garden, guests can stand under a 30-foot herbaceous plant that is filled with flowers and the famous yellow fruit.

Be sure you leave your head tilted upwards as you leave the Banana House because just a few feet away lies the Silver Garden where orchids dangle from the ceiling. These particular flowers are epiphytes, which take the moisture and nutrients they need from the rain, air and debris, rather than soil. In nature, epiphytic orchids are found in trees with their roots growing towards the air.

Not only can visitors be so lucky as to see 7,500 different orchids, but timed correctly, they can see a Meconopsis, also known as a blue-poppy. These flowers are native to the Himalayan Mountains. Each year, Longwood induces the growth of the flower in March. The gorgeous blue poppy contains sky blue petals that are mesmerizing to look at. Blue-poppies, which can be found in the Estate Fruit House of the Conservatory, last for approximately 10-15 days.

By the end of the Conservatory, guests will find themselves hungry and ready for a meal break. Longwood Gardens has two dining options for guests. The first is the 1906 Fine Dining Room, which serves brunch, lunch and dessert with a view of the Conservatory.

The second dining option is The Café. Within The Café, diners have three seating options, “The Lodge,” which comfortably places you around a warm stone fireplace, “The Founders Room,” which honors contributors to Longwood Gardens and du Pont himself and “The Gallery,” which features artwork crafted by the students in Longwood’s Continuing Education courses. This dining facility serves entrées, salads, soups and much more.

After eating and receiving a new bust of energy, go for a stroll by the large and small lake. These lakes are reminiscent of an English park. The trees hovering over the water leave a reflection as the water twinkles from the sun above. Swans and geese swim in packs through the lake, even coming up close to the steps where people can sit near the water and gaze out at the beauty. This romantic stroll isn’t complete without heading over to the white columned gazebo with a black wrought iron top, which is surrounded by a sea of green plants and white flowers.

Longwood Gardens is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Times are subject to change depending on the season. Visitors can buy tickets online at tickets.longwoodgardens. org, or call 610-388-1000. Currently, tickets are $23 for adults or $20 for anyone with a valid student ID; however, prices are subject to change based on the season. Additional information can be found on longwoodgardens.org.

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