Behind-the-scenes tour at Longwood Gardens plant-production facility

October 09, 2023

The Philadelphia Area Fling in September officially started with a behind-the-scenes tour at Longwood Gardens. I didn’t know what to expect and was astonished to learn about an army of plant-production staff working at Longwood to grow horticultural displays that wow all year, but especially during big events like the garden’s Chrysanthemum Festival.

We were organized into groups of 10 and led through Longwood’s state-of-the-art greenhouses to meet staff members, who shared how they create chrysanthemum bonsai…

…and chrysanthemum topiary…

….and gigantic chrysanthemum cascades that will be suspended from the conservatory’s ceiling.

Pink-flowering spirals too

We saw how plants being grown into hanging spheres are moved along a suspended track to allow light to reach all sides, and to avoid shading plants being grown below. Perfection is the aim!

My group taking it all in

Outside, we learned about Longwood’s bonsai collection.

And we learned about waterlilies from a staff member in waders who used the coffee-table-sized pads of Victoria amazonica as floating trays.

A sampling of tropical waterlily flowers

The fascinating, veined structure of an amazonica lilypad

And spine-protected flowerbuds

After the tour, we were seated in an auditorium to watch a video about Longwood, a legacy of Pierre S. du Pont.

Longwood generously gave every attendee a copy of newly published Du Pont Gardens of the Brandywine Valley. It features 5 Du Pont estate gardens: Longwood, Hagley, Nemours, Mt. Cuba Center, and Winterthur. I look forward to reading it!

That evening, Longwood treated us to a German-style dinner in the Beer Garden, complete with live music. Then we were led to 100 seats set aside just for us at Longwood’s illuminated fountain show. Although I’d visited Longwood twice before, this was the first time I’d caught the big fountain show. On this night, the fountains danced to the music from Romeo and Juliet. It was a colorful, graceful, extravaganza of spouting plumes and propelled streamers of water that changed with the music.

What a way to kick off the Philly Fling! My thanks to organizer Karl Gercens, conservatory manager at Longwood, and to all the Longwood staff for welcoming our group and putting on such a terrific show for us.

Up next: The found-art humor and color of private garden Create a Scene. For a look back at flamboyant flower borders and containers at Longwood Gardens, click here.

I welcome your comments. Please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post. And hey, did someone forward this email to you, and you want to subscribe? Click here to get Digging delivered directly to your inbox!


Digging Deeper

Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance; simply click this link and ask to be added. The Season 7 lineup can be found here.

Tour several Austin gardens on Saturday, November 4, on the Garden Conservancy’s Open Day tour for Travis County. Tickets must be purchased online in advance and will be available beginning September 1st.

All material © 2023 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.