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

Bamboo

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.

Mums

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

Ikebana 

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.

Bonsai

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.

Winter Blues-Blue Poppy Envy

  Blue poppy

Only on display at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania for two to three weeks, the Himalayan Blue Poppies are stunners and considered a rare garden treasure. Almost extinct in their native habitat of Bhutan, photographers flock to Longwood to capture some photos of these amazingly true blue spectacles.  Sporting deep sky blue crepey petals with mauve highlights and a ring of golden stamens and anthers, the plant is much sought after to add to gardens.

blue poppy

Unfortunately, in North America it can only be grown in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and parts of New England successfully. Meconopsis grandis is the national flower of Bhutan, a country high up in the Himalayas, above 10,000 feet, and wants cool, cool temperatures, like 45 to 50 degrees F. The conservatory at Longwood Gardens is certainly warmer than this so the flower is fleeting in its beauty.

Photo courtesy of Longwood Gardens
The Winter Blues Festival is all about blue flowers at Longwood until March 25
Blue hydrangeas and white orchid balls decorate the conservatory at Longwood Gardens
Pride-of -Madeira, Echium candicans is part of the display
One last petal hanging on
One last petal hanging on

Once considered a myth and brought back to the west by plant hunters, the Blue Poppy is a challenge to grow for the most experienced gardeners and a mark of distinction for any gardener succeeding in its cultivation.

On the cusp of opening
On the cusp of opening

Requiring moist and cool conditions, Longwood Gardens, one of the few places to see them, forces the variety Meconopsis ‘Lingholm’ into bloom every March and increases their number each year because of their popularity.

Thousands of pots of Blue Poppies at Longwood Gardens in the production greenhouse, photo courtesy of Longwood Gardens

blue poppy
Photo courtesy of Pam Corckran

Drawing large numbers of people, especially photographers getting that perfect shot, the colors are unbelievable-saturated blues with streaks of mauve plum tones- on a large 4-5 inch flower.

Showing mauve highlights is a sign of stress
Showing mauve highlights is a sign of stress

A shade of blue rarely seen in other flowers,  the foliage is also stunning with grass-green hairy stems and leaves. Longwood Gardens gets their Blue Poppy plants shipped to them from an Alaska grower in the fall and they grow them in perfectly controlled greenhouse conditions to force them into bloom for display in the spring. Longwood has two different batches that it refreshes the flowers with so they can extend the brief bloom time for visitors.

Blue poppy

Growing in the warm clime of the conservatory, the mauve highlights were evidence as a sign of stress. The ephemeral quality of their blooms is part of their attraction and charm and visitors flock to see them.

blue poppy

Demanding a rich loamy well draining soil in partial sun in cool conditions is the primary ingredient to successfully growing this garden gem. Way too hot in my mid-Atlantic climate, I get to photograph them and enjoy them at Longwood Gardens in the spring. For more information on how to grow them if you are in a better suited climate than mine, go to Himalayan Blue Poppy Care.

Every year at Longwood ,the Blue Poppies are used in different areas of the Conservatory

blue poppy
Photo courtesy of Pam Corckran

For my post on growing cool season poppies, go to Cool Season Plants  or Poppy Love. To see the famed Blue Poppies, go to Longwood Gardens by the end of March.

 

It is a double treat at Longwood with the Orchid Extravaganza
Blue and white at Longwood Gardens

Longwood’s Summer of Spectacle

New fountain display at Longwood Gardens, photo courtesy Longwood Gardens

Two years in the making, the revamped and rebuilt 5 acre fountain display of Longwood Gardens is ready for prime time. Major new renovations that incorporate new technology have energized the old Longwood Gardens fountains into an unforgettable experience.

According to Longwood Gardens website; “The culmination of the legacy and vision of Pierre S. du Pont, the garden combines classic landscape design with art, innovation, technology, and extraordinary fountains. Spectacular events, glorious gardens, live music, special exhibits, and jaw-dropping fountain performances await”.

Fountain scenery in the past was beautiful but lacked the movements of the modern ones, photo by Longwood Gardens

If you have never been to Longwood, their vision is clear; “To become a world apart, a place accessible to all is the driving force behind all we do to ensure we preserve and enhance this extraordinary experience for future generations”. Home to more fountains than any other garden in America, this is an experience that you won’t see anywhere else. New fountain engineering and lighting technology that weren’t available in the thirties transformed the fountains to the digital age.

During daylight hours, the fountains provide a wonderful backdrop for the gardens

Return of the Fountains

I remember the fountain display from years ago and I wasn’t prepared for the new and improved version with shape shifting columns of water.

 

On a recent humid summer night I got my chance. Sitting in a reserved seat, I had a perfect view of the recent renovations complete with fireworks, fountains, and music. ‘Dancing Divas’ was the theme and the fountains literally danced! Waves of undulating water streams throbbed to the music punctuated by eye dropping fireworks.

LED lights produce colors that weren’t possible when the fountains were designed and there were bursts of water propelled by compressed air and flames of propane gas that flare atop columns of water- Fire & Water!

Dancing fountains
Even in daylight the fountains are extraordinary. Here is the basket weave effect, photo courtesy of Longwood Gardens

Facts

Designed by Pierre du Pont and first turned on in 1931, the $90 million revitalizing project began in October of 2014 and opened with great fanfare this spring.

You can reserve seats or bring your own; these lawn chairs were covered because of a threat of rain

 

Lots of new jets were added (1,340) and the tallest jet went from 130 feet to 175 feet. The basket weave effect (pictured above) was added, a “Hidden Layer Dancer” and “Dancer on the Stage” were added, which means a nozzle moves side to side and front to back to make beautiful gyrations that are put to full use. The fountains did dance.

 

Summer of 2016 the fountains were still being worked on

Daily fountain performances with additional special evening shows Thursdays through Saturday showcase the new fountain experience.

Reserved seating is available

The Historic Pump Room & Gallery highlights the original pump systems that powered the main fountain garden from 1931 to 2014 and gives you a behind the scenes look at the powerful equipment required of the old fountains.

The original pump room has been restored

Flower Garden Walk

I loved the fountains, but walking through the totally redone first garden of Mr du  Pont was my pleasure of the evening.

A stellar garden walk in front of the restored fountains
Lushly planted gardens are adjacent to the main fountain garden
Hundreds of seasonal dahlias were on display for everyone’s enjoyment

A celebration of annuals and perennials and a wonderful dahlia garden that was at its peak in August drew my attention and many photos later I joined my family at the Beer Garden for refreshment.

Beer Garden

Returning for Thursday to Saturday evenings, the Beer Garden was a perfect spot to sit with friends and family for wine/beer and wood fired pizza and bratwurst. I have been to a real Beer Garden in Germany and this was very similar in ambiance and flavor.

Kevin, an employee at Longwood, gave us some useful tips on navigating the Beer Garden
Magical at night, there was plenty of seating and food options in the Beer Garden

Grotto

The spiritual center of the new fountain display has to be The Grotto. Meant to be a place of reflection, it includes four fountains, including one that falls from the ceiling.

The grotto with a suspended fountain was my favorite-an area for reflection and meditation, photo by Longwood Gardens

Framed in limestone walls, all of the old crumbling statues and carved wall fountains at the main fountain garden’s base,  had to be removed and either replaced or rebuilt by craftsmen. New plantings of boxwood were added and the old invasive Norway Maples that have fallen out of favor were replaced with Lindens.

Sunset, photo by S. Markey

New plantings were added
New limestone walls are the backdrop for dramatic containers

Longwood Gardens is off Route 1 in Kennett Square, Pa., and contains more than 1,000 acres of gardens, woodland, idea garden, hillside garden, meadow and conservatories. In the Main Fountain Garden, 12-minute fountain shows are held daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Thursdays through Saturdays, when Longwood is open until 10 p.m., there is a 12-minute show at 7 p.m. and a 30-minute show at 9:15 p.m. The last show has illuminations.

Special tickets are required for the Fireworks & Fountains Show.

Orchid Mania at NYBG (New York Botanical Gardens)

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Orchid chandeliers! Orchid planters! Orchid islands! Just think orchid everything at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. I saw orchids there in colors I have never seen before like this mint green hanging orchid ( I love green flowers!)

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Miltonias are my favorites-They look like orchid pansies
Miltonias are my favorites-They look like orchid pansies

Orchids are at their peak at the end of winter/early spring and the various botanical gardens make the most of it. Longwood gardens has their opus and the New York Botanical Garden chimes in with their twist. And their twist is stunning! Orchid Chandeliers were touted as the star and just look up and you will see the beautiful ceiling mounted floral creations that make your jaw drop! –  Aerial flowers!

Orchid Chandelier
Orchid Chandelier

As soon as you step foot into the conservatory, cylinders and enormous hanging creations with a kaleidoscopic symphony of colorful orchids such as Cattleyas and Phalaenopsis  are framed by the magnificent architecture of the crystal palace Conservatory.

Orchid Chandelier
Orchid Chandelier

The floating islands of orchids were just as incredible and greeted you at the door of the historic Victorian inspired Enid A. Haupt conservatory. But the theme of this year’s orchid show is “Look up!”, not “Float like a boat” and you can see how they made these creations at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6q4BQH8vn0

NYBG conservatory
NYBG conservatory
The gardens at the NY Botanical Gardens were still in winter mode
The gardens at the NY Botanical Gardens were still in winter mode

Floating islands of orchids greet you at the entrance of the Conservatory
Floating islands of orchids greet you at the entrance of the Conservatory
There were other chandeliers, like the  Staghorn ferns!
There were other chandeliers, like the Staghorn ferns!
More chandeliers
More chandeliers

Guerlain, a perfume and makeup company teamed up with the New York Botanical Garden on its Orchid Evenings to promote its orchid scent focused on the flower.  And talk about fragrance! It was wafting everywhere in the conservatory. All the orchids were so fragrant, I couldn’t figure out where the fragrance was originating-it was just everywhere.

The Cattleyas are particularly fragrant
The Cattleyas are particularly fragrant

Other tropicals were showcased along with the orchids as they bloom at the same time- Bromeliads, Anthuriums, Bird of Paradise, and Gingers were all in exquisite form.

Yes, Anthuriums!!
Yes, Anthuriums!!
Let's not forget the Bromeliads
Let’s not forget the Bromeliads
Planters full of multiple orchids
Planters full of multiple orchids

Go to http://www.nybg.org/exhibitions/2015/orchid-show/ to read about the popular orchid evenings, dance exhibitions, poetry readings, and tips on orchid care that you can enjoy until April 18 in NYC in the Bronx.

White Orchids
White Orchids

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