STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Even though more than a foot of snow recently got dumped on Kennett Square, the first of Longwood Gardens’ five seasonal displays for 2016 is underway.
How is that even possible?
Running through March 27, is “Orchid Extravaganza” in Longwood’s four-acre, heated Conservatory. Orchid bloom seem to cascade down walls, spill from containers and adorn planting beds. The flowers were grown by experts in Taiwan, and last year was the first time these carefully cultivated orchids had been on display at a public garden in the U.S.
Tell me more.
In the East Conservatory, there’s an arch of white Phalaenopsis welcoming you to the Conservatory, while orbs of purple and white Phalaenopsis hang above the Exhibition Hall. Urns of mixed colors of Cymbidiums line the yellow-blooming Acacia Passage, while the Silver Garden features hundreds of blue Vanda orchids hanging overhead. The centerpiece is a 17-foot-high Orchid Curtain, featuring 250 purple Phalaenopsis and Cattleya orchids. Among the approximately 5,000 blooming orchids include Dendrobium, Paphiopedilum and Oncidium.
A rarity to keep an eye out for is the Phalaenopsis Sogo Yukidian “V3” orchid in the Orangery.
In early March, Longwood’s Blue Poppy (Meconopsis) returns to the Conservatory. Longwood Gardens has successfully produced a crop of blue poppies that decorate the Conservatory’s Exhibition Hall.
Additional indoor highlights include the Mediterranean Garden, featuring Australian purple coral-pea (Hardenbergia) vines blooming like miniature wisteria; and nectarines, melons, and other fruits and vegetables in the Estate Fruit House.
In March, early spring bulbs will begin to carpet the outdoor landscape, hinting at spring’s arrival. In addition to the horticultural display, “Orchid Extravaganza” features concerts, talks, tours, OrKid Days and more.
What can you tell me about the programming?
OrKid Days from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 15-March 19 mean children get special activities designed just for them. They include discovery stations, interactive storytelling and a family seek-and-find.
At 8 p.m. Feb. 11, classical string trio Time for Three performs in concert. Tickets are $42 ($36 for members). At 8 p.m. Feb. 19 in Longwood’s Ballroom will be a recital by James O’Donnell, organist and Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey in London. Tickets are $35 ($30 for members). At 8 p.m. March 8, New Zealand’s Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra brings its sound to Longwood. Tickets are $38 ($32 for members) Concert tickets can be purchased by calling (215) 893-1999 or visiting www.ticketphiladelphia.org.
So where is Longwood Gardens?
Route 1, near the intersection with Route 52, Kennett Township.
When is it open?
Longwood is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
How much are tickets?
Admission is $20, $17 for seniors 62+, $10 for students 5-18. Group rates are available.
What is their phone number and website?
Call (610) 388-1000 or go to www.longwoodgardens.org.
What else is happening there in the dead of winter?
The Indoor Children’s Garden has an assortment of water features and plants. Longwood’s Education Programs encourage gardening at all levels. Classes and lectures on garden-related subjects are offered year-round, as well as student programs for those interested in horticultural careers.
Longwood’s Terrace Restaurant is open daily and offers cafeteria-style dining in The Café. The Longwood Gardens Shop in the Visitor Center is open daily.
How did Longwood Gardens get here?
In 1906, industrialist Pierre du Pont purchased a small farm to save a collection of historic trees from being sold for lumber. Today, more than 60 years after du Pont’s death, it’s 1,077 acres of gardens, woodlands, meadows, fountains and more.