A Stroll Through Longwood Gardens


Canna in bloom in Longwood Gardens

When I first learned about the Light exhibit by Bruce Munro at Longwood Gardens, I put it on my must-do list. The photos I saw of the glowing lights in the garden darkness positively captivated me. So I finally found the time to make my way there on a recent weekend. I arrived in the late afternoon and took advantage of the remaining daylight to wander through the magnificent gardens.

Situated in the historic Brandywine Valley, Longwood Gardens is an Eden for plant lovers and one of the preeminent gardens in the United States. Although it’s just 32 miles from Philadelphia and 12 miles from Wilmington, Delaware, the surrounding Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, with its little town center and charming B&Bs, seems far removed from both.

The 20 indoor and 20 outdoor gardens that spread over the 1,077 acres of the park proved to be too much to cover in the couple of hours before nightfall, but I did manage to see a number of the garden’s highlights. And though the day was a bit overcast, it didn’t detract from the beauty of the plants and trees.

My first stop was the topiary garden. I’m always fascinated by how plants — here, Japanese and English yews — are clipped into all kinds of cool shapes. (I also can’t help but think of the moving topiaries in Stephen King’s The Shining, though these weren’t creepy like the ones in the book.)

The topiary garden at Longwood Gardens


From there, I headed to the nearby rose garden, positively radiant with brilliant yellows, oranges, pinks, and reds.

A little bit of sunshine on a gray day

The Idea Garden, which was bursting with a jumble of blooms and foliage, was a nice surprise, with its wild look contrasting with the more manicured parts of the garden.

The diversity of plants in the Idea Garden

A lovely chartreuse zinnia

Next stop: the conservatory. Originally built in 1919, it houses 5,500 types of plants and covers four-and-a-half acres. There were some really unusual-looking specimens, such as these pitcher plants.

Sarracenia sp.

Nepenthes x mixta var. superba

Having recently visited the Monet’s Gardens exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens, I was drawn in by the water lily pools at the conservatory. They’re filled with glorious tropical water lilies (both day and night blooming), hardy water lilies, lotuses, and giant water platters that almost resemble giant stepping stones leading across the water.

There’s so much more to see in Longwood Gardens. For additional information, visit And to learn about other nearby attractions, including Winterthur Museum, Gallery, and Library and the Nemours Mansion and Gardens, visit

All photographs by Kathleen Kent

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