He who plants a garden plants happiness, according to an old Chinese proverb. Both Pierre S. du Pont and his wife Lilian planted a lot of happiness, as they planned and developed their estate, Longwood Gardens.
I felt so very spoiled walking through the gardens. From the visitors center we turned right, into the formal Idea Gardens that provide a shifting color pallet, from purple and red to orange, yellow and white. From these, we strolled to the lake, on the other side of which was the formal Italian water garden that was a favorite of Day Trip Pal.
From there, take a turn through the woods and alongside the meadow (which will re-open next summer), making sure to check out the two treehouses.
It was nice to see so many families with kids of all ages enjoying the gardens. The treehouses were particularly appealing to the kids, and they romped up and down the stairs. But they also played on the paths and seemed to enjoy the water features and fountain shows -- which appealed, frankly, to most adults as well (it's fun to put on your kid hat every once in a while!).
You don't need to know a lot about flowers to enjoy the gardens. It's just plain fun walking through the various scenes and "outdoor rooms."
The gardens didn't appear overnight. According to Longwood Garden's website, the land had originally been
inhabited by the native Lenni Lenape tribe who hunted, fished, and farmed the productive wilderness.
In 1700, a Quaker family named Peirce purchased the property from William Penn and soon established a working farm. Joshua and Samuel Peirce began planting an arboretum on the farm in 1798. Longwood owes its present-day success to the Peirces, who actively pursued their interest in natural history.
By 1850, the site was known as having one of the finest collections of trees in the nation, and one of the first public parks, and its aesthetic qualities were as important as its botanical significance.The farm was purchased in 1906 by Pierre du Pont and from 1907 until the 1930s Mr. du Pont created most of what is enjoyed today. In 1946, the Gardens were turned over to a foundation set up by Mr. du Pont, which is what we enjoy today when we visit.
When you go, make sure you check out the Conservatory -- throughout its 20 indoor gardens, there are well over 5 thousand types of plants. The Conservatory was built in 1919 and has been periodically expanded and renovated. At present, there is about 4.5 acres of covered display, production, and research greenhouses. During the summer months, the regal Victoria lily, and its cousins float placidly in the center plaza of the Conservatory.
Sadly, the day we visited, the fountain show wasn't active, due to a fireworks display that evening. Despite that, there was more than enough to see and do -- and we left Longwood Gardens tired and quite satisfied.
Getting there: Longwood Gardens is located on US Route 1, about 3 miles northeast of Kennett Square. GPS it: 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square , PA 19348; if your GPS does not recognize the 1001 Longwood Road address, try 399 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348; admission fee required.
Hours: Varies by season. Generally opens at 9 a.m. Please check the website.
Dogs: As fun as it would be to have Fido along, leave him home.
Eats: There's two restaurants onsite; prices quite reasonable, and a lovely patio to enjoy lunch on.
Updated May 2018