Everything’s Coming Up Orchids

If I could choose to spend the rest of my days in one place on earth, it wouldn’t be Paris or Bali or even (as much as I love it) New York City. It would be Longwood Gardens. Longwood, formerly the summer estate of Pierre S. duPont, occupies over a thousand acres just outside Kennett Square and is a marvel of innovative garden design and horticulture.

I’ve been to Longwood Gardens with my family countless times in the 10 years that we’ve lived in the Brandywine Valley. We became garden members soon after moving here, and our membership has served us well over time. Our son has grown up with Longwood; from those early years in his stroller, he’s become a garden “regular.” These days he could give a guided tour possibly as well as anyone who works there, and we never leave without paying a visit to his old buddy Belin, the feline resident of the Pierce-duPont House.

But even though we’ve been to Longwood so many times, each time we visit we find something unexpected. A previously undiscovered nook in the conservatory, a fountain tucked away in the woods, a new color or variety of our favorite bloom—these are the details that keep us coming back again and again. We never know what we’ll find when we head to the gardens.

I visited Longwood last week to take in the “Orchid Extravaganza,” which opened on January 19 and will be on exhibit through March 24. I was anxious for a respite from the cold, gray days of January, but before I headed to the conservatory I walked around outside, savoring the tranquility. I was pleased to see that the treehouses are open, even during these cold days. If you come to the gardens with your children (or if you’re a kid at heart), bundle up and be sure to check them out!

When the chilly winds finally got to me, I headed to the conservatory. No matter how many times I cross through those doors, I’m always amazed by what I feel when I step inside. It’s hard to find just the right superlatives to describe it—it’s a stop-dead-in-your-tracks, just say “wow” moment. I stopped to take it all in, overwhelmed by the sights, smells, and artistry of my surroundings.

As with everything Longwood does, the Orchid Extravaganza is magnificent. I wandered around the conservatory, snapping photos and taking in the beauty of over 5,000 orchids in various displays. Highlights include six different Orchid Orbs, each weighing about 200 pounds and suspended above the East Conservatory and Exhibition Hall; the Orchid Arch comprised of 800 yellow Phalaenopsis orchids and spanning the entrance to the Exhibition Hall; and the triple-tiered yellow-and-white orchid chandelier hanging above the Exhibition Hall floor. Orchids are tucked away in every corner of the conservatory, from the Cascade Garden to the Palm House. As much as I tried, I’m sure I didn’t see all of them; no matter–this just means I have a reason to visit again soon!

This year’s theme at Longwood Gardens is “Beyond the Garden Gates.” Visitors have the opportunity to meet Longwood’s gardeners, enjoy talks and demonstrations, and go behind the scenes during special Beyond the Garden Gates Days, Beyond the Garden Gates Tours, Talks with the Gardeners, and Insider Tours. Find out more here. Ongoing events for families and kids include OrKID Days, Kids’ Storytimes, orchid scavenger hunts in the Children’s Garden, and more. Learn about family events here. Garden gates are open from 9am to 5pm daily. For directions, ticketing, and more information, visit the Longwood Gardens website.

—Michele Kornegay

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