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