Located in southeastern Pennsylvania, southwest of Philadelphia and close to Wilmington, Del. in the beautiful Brandywine Valley, Longwood Gardens was the brainchild of Pierre S. Du Pont, a member of the wealthy Delaware-based Du Pont Chemical family. Du Pont, who had a penchant for gardening, purchased the land for the garden in 1906, and over several decades, turned the former arboretum into a 1,050 acre horticultural wonder showcasing more than 11,000 types of plants.
Du Pont's world travels greatly influenced his plans for Longwood Gardens. His love for fountains, such as the ones he viewed at the World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893, would prompt him to include numerous illuminated fountains in his designs. Today, Longwood Gardens has more than 400 water features. In addition, historians note that Du Pont was greatly influenced by the gardens he viewed throughout Europe, South America, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Florida, enticing him to include flora from these locales in his plans. More than one hundred years after its beginnings, Longwood Gardens is now home to 20 indoor and 20 outdoor gardens boasting plants, flowers, and trees from around the world.
The indoor gardens are housed in Longwood's expansive Conservatory, where visitors can view approximately 5,500 types of plants inside the structure, which covers 4.5 acres and was added in 1919. During the December holidays, the Conservatory is ablaze with thousands of poinsettias and hundreds of sparkling white lights. Orchids grace the Conservatory from January through March.
The outdoor gardens, which extend over 325 acres, are abloom with flowers and plants throughout the year according to season, from azaleas and marigolds in the spring to summer roses to colorful trees and gourds in the fall. About a mile of walkways wind through the blooms and past Du Pont's treasured fountains, which are showcased during the three-week summertime Festival of Fountains.
Longwood Gardens hosts special events throughout the year but the most popular are those included in the Christmas at Longwood festival, which stretches from Thanksgiving until early January. During this time of year, visitors can enjoy organ recitals and carol sing-a-longs on the 4-manual pipe organ in the garden's majestic ballroom, listen to vocal and handbell choirs, and watch ice skaters twirl under the stars. Longwood Gardens also offers seasonal holiday buffets and brunches for visitors.
In addition, Pennsylvania's Longwood Gardens presents daily visitor programs such as behind-the-scene tours as well as courses and workshops on various aspects of horticulture, children's and youth programs, and internships for area college students majoring in horticulture or a related field and for high school students with an interest in horticulture.
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