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Longwood Gardens

Posted on Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A World Class Botanical Garden


The History

The land that would become Longwood Gardens was first purchased by George Pierce in 1700. Pierce, a Quaker farmer, purchased 402 acres from William Penn himself. The 1730 farmhouse that was built by Pierce’s son Joshua still stands today and is the oldest structure on the property.
Joshua would have two twin grandsons, Samuel and Joshua. The two Pierce grandchildren would eventually take over the farm and would begin planting an arboretum that would eventually total 15 acres in size. Both Samuel and Joshua had a passionate interest in botany and natural history and planted specimens from all over the globe.  
Longwood Gardens - Photo Credit: Longwood Gardens
By the 1850s, the impressive collection of trees that the Pierce twins assembled had achieved national fame as a world class arboretum.  The arboretum had also become a popular place for locals to gather outdoors for picnics and celebrations.
Despite the popularity of the arboretum, it was nearly destroyed in 1906. After the deaths of the Pierce twins, the estate and arboretum had begun to deteriorate and the property was sold to lumber mill operator who planned to cut the trees down. The property was saved when it was purchased by Pierre du Pont, scion of the powerful du Pont family.  Du Pont lived on the estate but also restored the arboretum and opened it to the public.
Du Pont not only restored the arboretum but dramatically expanded it into an enormous botanical garden containing thousands of species. The outdoor arboretum was joined with numerous outdoor gardens complete with ornate fountains. Over 20 indoor gardens were created resulting in a complex that contains over 4.5 acres of indoor heated greenhouses, making it among the largest in the entire world. Today nearly a million people visit Longwood Gardens every year. 

What to See

There are dozens of gardens both indoor and outdoor for visitors to see year round. The indoor gardens, also known as conservatories contain 11,000 different types of exotic plants and trees from all over the world. Each conservatory has its own theme and unique design; the Orangery, Silver Garden, and the Orchid House are among the most popular indoor gardens.
Wisteria Garden at Longwood Gardens - Photo Credit: Longwood Gardens
Due to the uncontrollable outdoor climate, the outdoor gardens at Longwood simply cannot contain the vast diversity of tropical plants that you can find within the conservatories. Despite this hardship, the outdoor gardens still manage to look beautiful 12 months of the year. Plus, when spring finally rolls around and the outdoor gardens begin to bloom it is quite a sight. Some of the elegant outdoor gardens still incorporate some of the plants and trees that Samuel and Joshua Pierce began growing nearly two centuries ago.
A variety of tours are offered at Longwood Gardens that not only show off their impressive collection but give some insight into how they were created and the identities of some of the beautiful plants you’ll see on the tour. Longwood Gardens also frequently hosts music and theatrical performances and even an astounding fireworks show that incorporates Longwood Gardens many fountains into the display. There are even classes offered for those who are looking to learn how to create an impressive garden in their own backyard.
The Orangery at Longwood Gardens - Photo Credit: Longwood Gardens

Insider Tip

While Longwood Gardens is filled with rare and amazing plant species, it’s entirely possible that the most impressive sight at Longwood Gardens isn’t a plant at all, but rather a musical instrument!  The Longwood Organ is a custom designed Aeolian organ that is largest of its kind ever constructed in a residential setting .Built inside the Longwood Gardens Ballroom, the Longwood Organ was purchased by Pierre du Pont in 1930 for $122,700; the equivalent of $1.5 million today.
The Longwood Organ consists of over 10,000 pipes! The largest of these pipes is 32 feet tall and produces a very low sound of only 16 hertz; a frequency so low it feels like a small earthquake. The entire organ weighs an incredible 55 tons. The impressive instrument is used for the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition which attracts the best organists in the world.

How to Get There

As Longwood Gardens is located 30 miles outside of Philadelphia, the easiest way to travel is by car.  Guests of The Constitutional Walking Tour can easily drive from Old City to Kennett Square by utilizing I-95 South and US-322 West. Upon your arrival at Longwood Gardens, free parking is provided.
Longwood Gardens is not very easily accessible by public transportation, however if necessary Longwood Gardens can be reached by utilizing the Market Frankford Line, Septa's 104 Bus and Chester Country’s SCCOOT transportation service, which has a direct stop at Longwood Gardens.


Monday to Friday: 9:00AM-6:00PM
(note: hours subject to change)

Additional Information

1001 Longwood Road 
Kennett Square, PA 19348

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