What architect so noble…as he who, with far-reaching conception of beauty, in designing power, sketches the outlines, writes the colors, becomes the builder and directs the shadows of a picture so great that Nature shall be employed upon it for generations, before the work he arranged for her shall realize his intentions.
– Frederick Law Olmsted
I love big, planned, formal garden spaces. I have visited mansions in Newport, RI, historic homes in the DC/Virginia area, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and various other botanical gardens and preserved homes of the wealthy across the country. (One day I hope to visit the castles and formal homes of Europe too!) Wandering around these places I tend to lose myself to my imagination: I dream of running wild through the hedges, secretly meeting a love in a hidden rose arbor, or strolling with a parasol down aisles and aisles of breathtaking flower displays. These dreamy spaces are no accident. They are created by gardeners and landscape architects who use vision and forethought to pick every tree and flower individually because of what they will bring the scene (now and for years to come). That is why I love these formal gardens and their managed green spaces. Like Bonsai gardening, it is the evidence of what is possible with perfect planning and care. Since my home and garden don’t look anywhere near perfect, and I don’t have a huge staff whose sole purpose it is to tame the beast of nature neatly into form, a visit to Longwood Gardens is just the ticket to satisfying my daydreams.
A quick 40 miles west of Philadelphia, Longwood Gardens, originally the private home of Pierre S. du Pont, is located in beautiful Kennett Square, PA (which is also known as the Mushroom Capital of the World). With over 1000 acres to explore, including 20 indoor, and 20 outdoor gardens, a historic home, an enormous conservatory, water fountain shows, meadows, and water features…the place is packed with things to do year round. Bring good walking shoes (they do have motorized scooters to rent for those who need assistance to get around) and plan to spend the day. There is a cafe on the premises, and you can leave and re-enter if you want to picnic at their pavillion (outside the gardens) or dine in the cute town of Kennett Square. There are learning programs available and also concert and fireworks events throughout the year. For the Christmas season, the place gets decked out in lights and is very popular as a family outing. Kids will have a great time in the indoor and outdoor children gardens, as well as racing between the large topiaries, exploring the treehouses, and ringing the bell in the Chimes Tower. I highly recommend exploring this amazing space if you are in the area.