Longwood Gardens

3 09 2007

Lily Pads
On our final day together, the Jag took me to Longwood Gardens in southeast Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley. Longwood is one of the nation’s premier botanical gardens, and it recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. Longwood was built by Pierre S. du Pont, who, of course, had loads of money—and was interested in trees, fountains, and pipe organs. (You weren’t expecting that last one, huh?) All those interests show in the 1000+ acres of gardens.

I especially enjoy visiting the Conservatory. (Mandatory Clue reference: Professor Plum did it in the Conservatory with the rope.) The Conservatory consists of four acres of greenhouses, showing all manner of flora that wouldn’t normally grow in the mid-Atlantic states. I’m particularly fond of the Silver Garden, the Banana Room, and the Palm House.

The Banana Room and the Palm House contain just what you’d expect. The Silver Garden contains plants of all sorts of dusty green and gray hues. They’re mostly cacti and other succulents, and the subdued coloring is just one feature that helps them survive in difficult terrain. I’m drawn to these plants—to their spines and prickliness, their otherworldly shapes, their general non-leafiness. Let’s face it: I like whatever’s different.

I’m also drawn to the waterlily ponds at the Conservatory. Some of the waterlilies, especially those from the Amazon, are several feet in diameter. Once again, I’m drawn to the extremes. (Hmm, this trip to Longwood Gardens seems to have put some of my quirks in focus.) Anyway, at one of the waterlily ponds, I saw a tiny, gorgeous yellow-green frog. His startlingly loud croak got my attention, but he really blended into his surroundings. When he made nose, his throat expanded incredibly.

Longwood is a sort of odd mix of the natural and the man-made. (Who’d build a Banana Room in southeastern Pennsylvania?) I’m drawn to the plants, but put off sometimes by the Versailles-quality grooming. (Is it just me, or are topiary gardens actually obscene?) I had fun today, though. I enjoyed walking around for three or four hours, getting some sun, being the intrepid explorer of a manicured setting.

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