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Landenberg, Pennsylvania, United States
Based in Landenberg, PA PLG offers Landscape Installation and Maintenance to Southern Chester County and Northern Delaware

Friday, February 17, 2012

Longwood Gardens

        In early June my parents and grandma made a trip from Athens, Georgia all the way to West Chester, Pennsylvania to visit my wife and me.  My Grandma was left to my wife and me to entertain while my mother and stepfather went to the Carlyle Car Show.  Knowing my Grandma to be a garden enthusiast that had buckets of plants she was ‘rooting’ and planting beds full of random varieties, we decided to take her to Longwood Gardens.  Now my wife and I had visited Longwood once before when we made the initial trip up here and needless to say I was quite smitten with the gardens.  I was extremely excited to visit again because now I would recognize more species of plants, more of the native stone, and I could draw on this trip for inspiration for upcoming projects.  So on an uneventful Wednesday morning we picked up my Grandma from the hotel and preceded to Longwood.  Granny was so excited that she talked our ear off the entire 30 minute ride from West Chester.  She had apparently done her research, she knew that Longwood was a Du Pont mansion and had over 1,000 acres of gardens. 
        We arrived, paid the entrance fee, and got Granny set up with an electric scooter.  We then immediately started exploring.  The first thing that caught my eye was the light green color and fine texture of the deciduous Dawn Redwoods against the stone work of this building.        

    The light green of the needles is really set off by the brown tones of the stone work and window casements.  When the Dawn Redwood starts to show its fall colors (a really bright orangey-red) these colors will still work!  Once I stopped and took pictures of this our General (Granny) continued our forced march deeper into the gardens.  The perennial and annual plantings along the entry allee really caught my eye and once again I begged to stop.

I really appreciate the eye for detail in these plantings.  When they were laid out the installers really took the time to insure the spacing was correct and it shows.

I love these Pink Spider Plant blooms combined with the foliage of the Coleus.
The allee' terminates with this simple but beautifully finished fountain.

This drainage grate is another detail around the fountain that really caught my eye.
        Once I had exhausted my significant other by pointing out all of the details and plantings I liked along the entry allee, we started to explore all the ‘outdoor rooms’ off of the allee.  We started by exploring this space because of its interesting form and mixed paving materials.
The mix of classic red brick and full color flagstone really influenced my design work this past summer.
We walked down the first flight of stairs and I noticed the classic stone work and cast iron handrail.
The next level down Sarah and I found this square fountain surrounded by intricate annual plantings, really showing off the thought and labor that this type of design work and installation requires

Turning around in this space we found even more to look at.  I love this planter fountain and the lush plantings in simple clay pots around it.

Our exploration of this space completed we continued on.  Cresting the top of the final set of stairs we realized we had lost Granny!  We quickly set off to find her though we were sure she was old enough to take care of herself, besides; we had a lot to look at and take in!  The next space that really caught my eye was this sunny sitting area that took advantage of the inherent structure of Boxwood, Celosia, and Ornamental Grasses.  I especially loved the simple, straight, concrete stairs creating a nice level change.
Paving for a patio or walkway can be as simple as compacting some stone dust.

The concrete stairs and stone retaining wall are set off with boxwoods and a potter plant.
        When we finally found Granny she had found her way to what Longwood refers to as the “Large Lake.”  She was sitting and looking at the interesting structure that allows a view to the other end.  I found the carving and the cast iron work to be very interesting.  Looking at the ground, I realized how important this type of interplay between light and shadow is in a garden.  This inspired me to think about these elements more when designing!

Looking up through the cast iron dome.

The shadow of the dome on the ground.
View of the large lake.

After marveling at how big the carp in the lake were we all turned our attention to the Italian Water Garden.  While you are not allowed into the space, the elevated vantage point affords good views.  The fountains pulse giving a sense of expectation and energy to the space that is palatable. 
This space is rooted in the classic Italian Renaissance Garden Style.  The formality of the forms, the allee of trees, and the proportionality really draws the eye!  This would be a great space for sunbathing!  Another interesting feature of this space is the waterfall steps.

This looks like a great place to cool your heels!
        The next place we stopped was the ‘Lookout Loft’  and I must say that this was the most exciting and inspiring structure at Longwood Gardens (in my opinion)!  The attention to detail in this structure is just mind blowing.  From the hand brazed copper, to the copper balusters, and the twigs/branches composing the roof.  The coolest thing about this structure is the innovative ways devised to experience the garden.  The one I thought was the coolest was the ‘listening device.’  This device amplified the sounds coming from the immediate area and piped them directly into your ear.   
Branches composing the roof lend an airy feel to the structure.

Part of the listening device.

This is an example of making art functional.  What a great detail!

Bell of the listening device.

Copper balustrades with very intricate detailing.

        As you can tell I was quite enamored with this structure.  I cannot wait to revisit it to take more pictures of this amazing piece of art!  The next stop was the Longwood Garden Conservatory.  This one amazing glass structure could be a day’s worth of exploring on its own!  With an amazing array of tropical plants, fountains, and indoor landscaping was mind numbing. 
View of the conservatory

Main Entrance

        Directly across from the Conservatory is the Main Fountain Garden.  This space is pretty self explanatory and amazing!  Hang out in the provided chairs and on the benches and just take it all in.
The Main Fountain Garden

The perfect sitting area

Fenced garden area.

The bluestone and the brick work very well together.  The Adirondack Chairs are begging to be used!
I really like this planting detail.  Mixture of boxwood and red leaved barberries.
        The next stop was the Chimes Tower; and what an amazing structure it is!  This tower overlooks a nice pond that originates at the Eye of Water.  This is definitely one of my favorite things to photograph at Longwood.

Chimes Tower from below.
Chimes Tower with the Conservatory peeking from behing.

        By this time Sarah and I were exhausted from chasing Granny around on her electrified scooter.  We all made an agreement that we would make our exit from this amazing green and lush wonderland.  The drive home was filled with talk of the labor and work that must go into maintaining the plantings at that level.  It has now been almost six months since my family has visited and every time I speak to Granny she tells me how much she enjoyed the trip to Longwood.  Well Granny, I enjoyed it as much as you did! 

Housed in the conservatory is the amazing organ and dance hall.  The ceiling in this room is absolutely amazing.
Look at the rose colored glass! Amazing!

Intricate parquet floor of the dance hall.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to visit our web page at www.lawn-scapes.net.

-Matt Bradley

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