Earlier this year I visited Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania with my mom, and I wrote a blog post about their various gardens. In addition to their gorgeous outdoor displays, there’s a conservatory there to rival any other that I’ve seen (and I’ve been to some good ones). Honestly, you could spend an entire day just visiting the conservatory gardens without seeing anything else!
The conservatory began in 1914, when Pierre DuPont owned the property, but really found its feet when the more modern version was built in 1919 and opened in 1921. There are more than 4600 types of plants within its glass walls, and about 4 acres (ACRES!) of space in which they house various collections. Let’s explore…
Before we enter the building, here’s my lovely traveling companion, my mom. You’ll see she’s been saddled with both of our rain coats as I kept getting distracted and forgetting I had said, “Will you hold this for a second while I take a photo?” Thanks, mom!
Once inside the scale of the place hits you immediately, and it’s clear you’re in for a treat.
There are sweeping vistas, and also little vignettes of plants you can enjoy up close.
Everything is insanely lush and beautifully grown. And there are plants on every surface, and added via pots.
They had gorgeous hanging plants throughout the space and the scale is just immense.
There are plants from all over the world and it all feels very Victorian & civilized. It’s clearly influenced by some of the great conservatories of Europe from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Some of the plantings were a bit gauche IMHO, even though impressive. But venturing further inside there’s enough of everything to keep just about anyone, including plant snobs, happy. I imagine designing public gardens spaces can make it tricky to walk that line.
Softening the airport-hanger sized space in this room with plants on things like concrete support posts made it feel gracious, and that the building is there to serve the plants, rather than to just house them.
This Trachelospermum jasminoides (aka Star Jasmine) is so beautiful with all of its nearly white foliage. And it’s flowering! For years mine has grown lots of new stems but never flowered. Clearly I need a conservatory.
The passage ways between glass houses were spectacular with plants trained up and over, plus hanging containers punctuating the space above you.
I believe this room can be rented for events. So grand.
They had plants trained as espalier that I never even considered treating that way, but will front now on.
The orchids were literally just hanging all around the orchid room. This room was quite crowded so I didn’t get many good photos, but one of my favorite things about it was the paint color & the patina.
Now we head into one of my favorite spaces in the entire conservatory, the Silver Garden.
Not only is it filled with majestic specimens that help give perspective on your own life on this planet, but it’s set to a backdrop of glass and black trim. It’s just divine in there.
I have a thing for vintage zinc containers. There’s something about them that I find really elegant and timeless. My budget hasn’t allowed me to start a collection (yet!) but these are quite inspirational.
There’s something really great about seeing your house plants grown on a scale like this.
I mean, just look at this! Perfection.
As we segue back into more grand, tropical areas, there’s this lovely, small room with a planting scheme that could be recreated in a small, residential garden. I love that.
It was great to be able to both look down and up on these plants. Such a different feeling in both cases.
On the way to the epiphytes there was a hallway of bonsai, some of which were much older than me. This one is from 1988 — I was in middle school likely being subjected to “The Heart of Darkness” in English class.
Besides the silver garden, my other favorite was the fern house. So peaceful, and again has that prehistoric feeling.
Big and small.
And I’ll wrap up with this, including my (sadly blurry) mom enjoying herself as much as I did.
If you ever get a chance to go, I cannot recommend it highly enough!