Blooms & Bamboo at Longwood Gardens

Visiting Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA is always a pleasure and one I try to do several times a year. Fortunately for me, it is close by. I made a day trip which included a visit to Terrain, a destination nursery/garden center that is worth a trip on its own. For other posts on Longwood, go to- Longwood’s Summer of Spectacle and Christmas at Longwood.

I had never been to the fall Mum display and last week made the hour and a half journey to take it all in, and was blown away by the artful mums and stunning bamboo constructions. Blooms & Bamboo: Chrysanthemum and Ikebana Sogetsu Artistry is the official title, and features masterworks of Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, and bonsai. For more information on the behind the scenes, go to The Making of Blooms & Bamboo.

Bamboo archway

The bamboo structures were massive


Created by Headmaster of Sogetsu, Iemoto Akane Tehsigahara, the exhibit features two large-scale displays of bamboo and natural elements showcased in the Longwood Gardens Conservatory. Featuring 635 rods of bamboo manipulated into spiraling, twisting, and intertwining natural works of art that were over 15 feet high, these works of art towered almost to the roof of the conservatory.

If the bamboo exhibits weren’t enough, thousands of blooming chrysanthemums trained into imaginative forms and shapes by Longwood’s own horticulture masters were on display.


My daughter and I posing in front of the massive single chrysanthemum plant that features over 1000 blooms

The first thing you see entering the main conservatory is the massive Chrysanthemum plant that was started in the Longwood’s greenhouse 17 months ago. Beginning more than a year in advance, thousands of chrysanthemums are nurtured and trained meticulously into giant spheres, spirals, columns of cascading flowers, and pagodas. To appreciate the many different types of mums, go to Chrysanthemums: A Class of Their Own. 

Each bloom is supported and tied in
Cross section of the sphere showing how one mum plant is trained
Masses of unusual mums were placed out in the conservatory
Spider mums
Labeled types of mums
Mum pagoda
Mum fan
Smaller mum sphere from one plant
Football mums line the conservatory passages
Mum growing up a wall
Cascading mums draped the conservatory columns
I loved the lavender colored corner of the conservatory
A free form mum

Salvia leucantha, Mexican Bush Sage, complemented the mums
Cuphea ‘Candy Corn’
Cuphea ‘Candy Corn’ set off the yellow orange corner of the Conservatory
Sabra Spike Sage was a great autumnal color


The Japanese art of flower arrangement, Ikebana, was showcased in the Sogetsu school which is one of the styles of Ikebana. The Sogetsu School focuses more on free expression and is based on the belief that Ikebana can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere, by anyone. From the number of people who were exclaiming over them, there were plenty of admirers. For more information of Longwood’s Ikebana, go to Art For Anyone: Sogetsu Ikebana.


Numerous examples of Bonsai featuring miniaturized mums were my favorite. Bonsai is the Japanese art form of cultivating small trees or plants that mimic the shape of scale of full size trees. Through different techniques, such as wiring, shaping, and root pruning, these are amazingly like their full size plants. For more information on these, go to Character Development of a Bonsai.

Pomegranate tree
Different mum bonsai

This mum was growing over a small boulder

You can still see the exhibit now until November 17 and you can buy your tickets at Longwood Gardens.

Christmas at Longwood Gardens

Photo by Laura Jones
Fountains against background of lights is magical
Fountains against background of lights is magical, photo by Longwood staff

Christmas at Longwood Gardens

A family tradition for many years, visiting Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, is a feast for the senses. Colorful lights, pine scented greens and paper white floral fragrance, and pipe organ music escaping from the organ room, surround you as you enter the conservatories under glass.  

Shimmering with icicles
Shimmering with icicles


The Conservatories are decked out with traditional Christmas flowers, like Poinsettias and Paper Whites, but non-traditional ones, like tropicals, succulents, and air plants are used throughout. There was even a Tumble Weed Tree! Suspended Christmas trees were a conversation piece (how do they water them? answer-with long poles!) and a quick look in at the original pipe organ which was being played on beautifully, was all part of our Conservatory experience.

A master was playing on the Pipe Organ
Installing the air plant Christmas tree, photo by Longwood staff
Installing the air plant Christmas tree, photo by Longwood staff
Air Plant trees
Air Plant Christmas Trees 
Hop tree
Hop tree
Tumbleweed Tree
Tumbleweed tree
Dripping light chandeliers
Dripping light chandeliers
Ginger Tropical Tree
Ginger tree
Tropical tree with Beehive Ginger, Protea, and Birds of Paradise
Suspended Christmas Trees
Suspended Christmas Trees

Winterberries were everywhere in the Conservatories
Winterberries were everywhere in the Conservatories





Music Room

By far my favorite rendering of the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ was the Music Room at Longwood, completed by artist Danielle and Lee Vincent. Their Etsy shop is PreMadeReMade.

Danielle Vincent making her creations
Danielle Vincent making her creations

An ingenious depiction of the Christmas theme using creative book and paper embellishments with old books from library and flea market sales was captivating! Folded book art, cut paper ornaments, paper sculptures, using creased (no glue!) paper were everywhere. Trees. wreaths, garland, and ornaments were folded, cut, and embellished to carry out the theme.  Taking up to 5 days to complete just one book, this imaginative display caught my interest for a long time as I examined how they masterfully re imagined a library concept for the holidays.  

Book tree
Book tree, photo from Longwood staff
Music room folded books
Music room folded books

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Lights, Camera, Action!

Photo by Laura Jones

The expansion of lighted areas in tree houses, meadow, and fountains, gets you outdoors to explore the grounds.  

Bird House tree, photo by Laura Jones
Tree House lit up, photo from Longwood Gardens staff
Outdoor tree, photo by Longwood staff

The meadow especially was other worldly with lighted orbs that changed colors. Walking on a raised boardwalk made this one of the best experiences outdoors.

Boardwalk through lighted orbs
Boardwalk through lighted orbs


Outdoor orbs lit up and changed colors, photo by Laura Jones
Outdoor orbs lit up and changed colors, photo by Laura Jones



Trunks of tree were lit up
Trunks of tree were lit up
Refllections of water added to the light show
Reflections of water added to the light show

A few facts about the displays:

-More than 150 cut trees throughout the indoor display

– 32 miles of lights

– More than 100 outdoor trees lit

– 100 % LED lighting

– Three firepits outdoors

– Fountain shows daily in the Open Air Theater set to holiday music

-Over 3000 Poinsettias used in the displays

To get your timed tickets, go to Longwood Gardens up until January 6, 2019. And for tips on visiting, go to Ten Tips for a Day at Longwood Gardens.



Garden Trip-Chelsea, Wales, and Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds

If you have never been to the Chelsea Flower Show or the Cotswolds & Wales, read on if you want to check this off on your bucket list. For a full rundown on the recent Chelsea Flower Show, you need to check out my post.

Yes, these are potatoes! A display of hundreds of varieties of potatoes at Chelsea, picture by Darlene Wells

Sarah Raven’s display garden

Photo opportunity at the Flower Show; I am on the right, my sister is on the left

Fake grass is very lifelike looking at Chelsea

I will be leading a tour of public and private gardens that are rarely seen, in May of 2018. Last year, I had a group of 29 like-minded garden fanatics with me in the UK and we had a fabulous trip touring many of the large established public gardens and some private ones. In 2018, I wanted to mix it up and include some smaller private gardens that aren’t on the usual garden tour schedule. I relied on my friend Victoria Summerley, author of Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds, to give me tips on where to go to for under-the-radar gardens as well as her own wonderful garden near Bibury. For a full itinerary of my tour, go to my ‘Trips‘ tab.

Victoria Summerley’s garden, Awkward Hill, photo courtesy of Victoria Summerley

Awkward Hill, photo courtesy of Victoria Summerley

Organizing a garden tour is like an air traffic controller; There are a lot of moving parts. So many gardens are open different times of the days or week, finding a convenient hotel for a good price, and discovering different activities to liven up the garden tour regimen is all part of the planning process. For example, planning to visit Highgrove, which is  the private gardens of Their Royal Highnesses,The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, is always problematic as they publish their open days in January, months after my schedule is finalized. So, I set it up and try to hit one of their open days. But plenty of alternatives are available everywhere if I am not lucky. It always works out in the end.

London Sights

The newly remodeled Garden Museum in London is on my itinerary

Gift Shop – Chelsea Physic Garden, photo courtesy of Amy Sparwasser

London gardens and garden center visits are included with The Chelsea Flower Show for garden-obsessed people. The Garden Museum, The London Eye , Petersham’s Nursery in Covent Garden, The Chelsea Physic Garden, and of course the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Hampton Court Palace- are all on the schedule.

Chelsea Physic Garden, photo courtesy of Amy Sparwasser

The Chelsea Physic Garden was established as the Apothecaries’ Garden in London, in 1673. Referring to the science of healing, it is among the oldest botanical gardens in the UK, after the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, which was founded in 1621 (which is on our itinerary) and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh founded in 1670.  As stated on their website, the Chelsea Physic Garden is, “Tucked away beside the Thames, and is a celebration of the beauty and importance of plants. A unique living collection of around 5,000 different edible, useful, medicinal and historical plants is contained within its sheltering walls. This hidden gem is also a peaceful green oasis – come and enjoy a relaxing stroll and lunch or afternoon tea at the Tangerine Dream Café”. A sheltered microclimate in the UK, it even has an outdoor grapefruit tree!

The London Eye

We have reserved a ‘pod’ for a maximum of 25 people on the London Eye;There may be champagne involved

Seen outside a floral shop in London


Unique garden statue at Abbey House Gardens; They have a clothing optional day once per month! photo courtesy of Amy Sparwasser

Abbey House Gardens

This description of Abbey House Gardens piqued my interest: “With 1300 years of history, the first King of England buried somewhere in the garden, two saints thrown down the well, and now one of the great gardens of the world. The spirit of the place shines through and could be the best garden visit you ever make.” Built next to a twelfth century abbey church, this five acre garden appears embraced by the surrounding gardens which includes tapestries of colorful hedging.

Wisteria at Abbey House Gardens, photo courtesy of Amy Sparwasser

Abbey House Gardens, photo courtesy of Amy Sparwasser

Oxford-A University City

Oxford is full of hidden narrow lanes with lots of ornate architecture, photo courtesy of Amy Sparwasser

The Oxford Botanical Gardens is included with free time to explore the interesting streets of  Oxford that has inspired many literary and cinematic works. Places steeped in history abound in this interesting medieval town. The Botanical Gardens, located down the appropriately named Rose Lane is an oasis of stone-walled peace in the heart of the city. Emphasis here is on traditional herbal remedies and their use in modern medicine.

The atmospheric, golden-stone colleges, are clustered around medieval streets and you can peek into many of them on foot.

Bodleian Library, Oxford, photo courtesy of Amy Sparwasser


A trip to visit English gardens isn’t complete without visiting Stratford-upon- Avon, the birthplace of the Bard. Shakespeare’s Birthplace allows you to visit the house where the world’s most famous playwright was born and grew up and you can discover more about his early years. For garden watching, there is a formal Tudor Knot Garden, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, contemporary landscaping with sculptures at Shakespeare’s New Place, and ancient Mulberry Trees (rumored to be of the same lineage as the original that stood during Shakespeare’s time). The mulberry fruit is used to create Mulberry Gin, available in Shakespeare’s Birthplace gift shop.

The Shakespeare Centre

Anne Hathaways Cottage in Stratford

The cottage garden at Anne Hathaway’s home is charming

Around every corner in the Cotswolds, there are picturesque scenes, photo courtesy of Amy Sparwasser

Peeking in the back garden gate at a Cotswold estate

I love this quirky sign, seen in the village of Blockley


Wales has some beautiful gardens and the people there are just as garden-mad as the English. A world-famous garden home to National Collections and Champion Trees, Bodnant Gardens has always been on my list to see. Featured as one of the most beautiful gardens in the UK, I am finally going to make it. Powis Castle is on our list which has stunning vistas and terraces. Described on the National Trust website: “The world-famous garden, overhung with clipped yews, shelters rare and tender plants. Laid out under the influence of Italian and French styles, it retains its original lead statues and an orangery on the terraces. High on a rock above the terraces, the castle, originally built circa 1200, began life as a medieval fortress”.

At Bodnant, the Laburnum arch will be in full bloom in May


Rhododendrons will also be blooming at Bodnant

Powis Castle

Llandudno; We will stay two nights here

David Austin Roses

On our way to Wales in the UK, we will stop at David Austin Roses plant center. According to their website: “In the early 1950s David Austin set out to create a more beautiful rose. Sixty years on, this simple objective remains”. The winner of 23 Gold Medal Chelsea Flower Show awards, I am very excited to visit their rose gardens, plant center, and tea room.

David Austin Tea Room, photo courtesy of David Austin Roses

Renaissance Garden, photo courtesy of David Austin Roses

Garden view of David Austin Roses, photo courtesy of David Austin Roses

Lion Garden View with ‘Graham Thomas’, photo courtesy of David Austin Roses

Considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, over 700 varieties of roses are planted here in just two acres. Free ranging informal roses are enclosed within neatly clipped evergreen hedges. The Renaissance Garden is composed of all English roses and the Long Garden which contains old roses is the central focus with all the other gardens leading from it.

The Long Garden, photo courtesy of David Austin Roses

English Roses, photo courtesy of David Austin Roses

Garden View, photo courtesy of David Austin Roses

After our visit to Wales, we will continue to the Peak district of England to visit the newly remodeled Chatsworth House, and back to the London area to see Hatfield House and gardens, built on the site of Elizabeth I’s home and home of the famous Rainbow Portrait.  St Tiggywinkles, an animal rescue organization, is also on our list to see with a tour of the animals, like hedgehogs and badgers being rehabilitated. This is just a small sampling of all the sites that we will be visiting. For more information about prices, etc., go to Trips.