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Horticultural display at Longwood Gardens highlights varieties of orchids

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STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
bbingaman@21st-centurymedia.com
@brianbingaman on Twitter

The party is called “Orchid Extravaganza” and you can come see it through March 31.
Thousands of colorful orchids are in bloom in Longwood Gardens’ four-acre conservatory, Peirce-du Pont House and the Visitor Center.
The display features Cattleya, Dendrobium, Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum and Oncidium, among others. Among the highlights are a 12-foot-tall archway made up of pink Phalaenopsis orchids, large orbs of orchids, a 17-foot-high, purple and white orchid curtain featuring 625 purple Phaleanopsis and Cattleya orchids, urns of mixed colors of Cymbidiums lining the yellow-blooming Acacia Passage, and 200 hanging mixed color Vanda orchids suspended over the walkway of the Silver Garden.
In early March, Longwood’s Blue Poppy (Meconopsis) returns to the Conservatory. Native to the Himalayan Mountains, these sky-blue flowers are grown using a special technique to force the bloom.
Through April, the Mediterranean Garden will have Australian purple coral-pea (Hardenbergia) vines blooming like miniature wisteria; while the Estate Fruit House displays nectarines, melons, and other fruits and vegetables flourishing in the midst of winter.
This year, an orchid rarity, Phalaenopsis Sogo Yukidian “V3,” returns in white, pink and purple blooms. New this year, 100 of the V3 orchids will be suspended in six 24-inch baskets above the Center Walk.
What’s special about them?
Grown by experts in Taiwan, these orchids are notable for the number of flowers blooming at one time on each stalk, the appearance of unity of the flower pairs on each stalk, and how long they bloom. The blooms are achieved by cultivating the plant for about four years under specific environmental conditions that involve a strict nutritional regime and precise watering practices. As the flower spikes develop, the plants are placed facing south and the spikes are trained along a curved metal stake to yield the formal, draping presentation.
What about special programming?
Orchid Extravaganza features concerts, talks, tours and more.
On Feb. 28 at 8 p.m., pianist Simone Dinnerstein performs a concert that includes Franz Schubert’s Impromptus and Philip Glass’ Etudes.
An organ concert in the Ballroom with Jeffrey Fowler starts at 1 p.m. March 5.
Held 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 18, an “OrKid Day” will have activities for the young garden guests, such as Discovery stations, interactive storytelling, and a family seek-and-find.
On March 31 at 8 p.m., hear the winner of the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition, Joshua Stafford.
Special tickets are required for the performances and can be purchased at www.longwoodgardens.org. The website also has a more detailed schedule of what’s happening on the day you’re planning to go.
I realize it’s still winter, so when are the gardens open?
Through March 3 Longwood is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Beginning March 4, it stays open till 6. Admission is $23, $20 for seniors 62+, $13 for students 5-18; group rates available. Call (610) 388-1000 or visit www.longwoodgardens.org.
Refresh my memory where Longwood Gardens is?
U.S. Route 1 at Route 52, Kennett Township.

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