It’s about this time of the year — halfway through winter and halfway to spring — when people start dreaming of warm locations and vacations on bright sandy beaches. But only just recently my fellow Pennsylvanian, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted a further six weeks of winter. However, I have found a loophole! A visit to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. The horticultural garden in suburban Philadelphia is currently exhibiting more than 4,500 orchids as part of Orchid Extravaganza. It’s a first taste of spring that really shouldn’t be missed!
Orchids, Orchids, Orchids
Longwood Gardens are showing off orchids in a variety of ways. Just a short walk from the Visitor Center is the Conservatory. This massive 4.5-acre building is a collection of interconnected greenhouses. This is where the majority of the orchids are on display. Be prepared to see orchids in a way you’ve probably never seen before. Globes of orchids are suspended from the ceiling, a 12-foot-tall arch of the flowers greets visitors upon entrance to the Conservatory, and orchids of multiple colors cascade down a wall. There are orchids of seemingly every shade of purple and pink and yellow and white. There are large flowers and others that are unbelievably small.
Perhaps the most impressive part, I found, was a collection of orchids hanging overhead in the Silver Garden. These Vanda are displayed with their roots hanging down upon you as you walk through. But no water or soil? These orchids are epiphytic, meaning they get their nutrition from air humidity and photosynthesis. I hadn’t seen an exhibit quite like it before. It was fun watching visitors weave between and duck down under the roots.
The orchids are interspersed within Longwood’s permanently displayed plants as well as specially designed displays. There is always something to look at no matter where you turn. Some are common plants you see all the time but never look quite as nice, such as the miniature roses. While other plants you are less likely to encounter (at least in this part of the world), like the banana and plantain trees. There are so many plants to appreciate and so many labels to read to figure out what you’re admiring.
Orchid Extravaganza is on display until March 31st. The displays are replenished with fresh plants so you can always count on there being plants in bloom.
The Longwood Gardens Organ
If you’re going to go to Longwood Gardens, do not miss the demonstration of the organ! This notable organ is the “largest Aeolian organ ever constructed in a residential setting” with a staggering 10,010 pipes. Take a seat in front of the organ and watch as the self-playing instrument goes to town. A large screen television is set up next to the organ and shows which keys are being played in real time. Be sure to wander back behind the organ, too. The guts of the instrument can be seen behind glass and the valves open and close while the music plays. It’s rather impressive to watch.
Visiting Longwood Gardens
Probably one of the best parts about Longwood Gardens is that it changes as the year progresses. As seasons change, so too do the displays. Their holiday display is extremely popular and I really enjoyed it a couple of years ago when I visited. There are poinsettias and twinkling lights everywhere! For many it’s an annual tradition to visit.
You really never need an excuse to visit Longwood Gardens. There’s always something to see! Starting April 1st, the spring blooms will be the featured display. It is worth noting that Longwood keep a list of what’s in bloom on their website. Whether it’s Orchid Extravaganza or Christmas at Longwood, you surely won’t be disappointed.
Special thanks to Longwood Gardens for generously providing admission.