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This week we visit Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. It's one of the premiere display gardens in the entire world and located just 45 minutes west of Philadelphia. We'll see what Pierre du Pont set out to protect 100 years ago. There are over 1000 acres of outdoor gardens and 4 acres of indoor conservatories that still reflect what Mr. du Pont envisioned when he built these structures 100 years ago. Longwood Gardens contains some of the finest plant material in the world.

Sharon Loving is the head of Horticulture at Longwood Gardens. She tells us that there are 1050 acres here and this is the premiere world display garden. This property was purchased by Quakers in the early 1700's. The Pierce brothers, Joshua and Samuel, were interested in collecting trees throughout the U.S., bringing them here and planting them in a long arboretum now referred to as Long Woods, located on the eastern portion of the property. The property developed and the garden grew when Mr. du Pont noticed they had put the property up for sale because the Pierce brothers wanted to sell the trees. In July of 1906 Mr. du Pont bought the property as a summer home in order to save the trees. During his life he established one of the most spectacular gardens in the U.S. His interest in European garden design, fountains, fireworks and horticultural display are the foundation of what you see today.

Mr. du Pont had a special interest in music, thus there are over 400 performing arts programs every calendar year. They also have a wonderful fireworks and fountain display that has programs 6 times a year. Mr. du Pont loved children and in keeping with that heritage they have children's programs, potted plants where children can get their hands dirty, times when they can take discovery tours, storytelling and performing arts events for the entire family.

Karl Gercens is the Section Gardener for the display conservatories and takes us on the tour today. Karl tells us, Longwood is beautiful, there are 4 acres under glass and 20 separate gardens. Visitors will find something new every time they visit. Longwood has plants from all over the world, from South America, Australia, the Mediterranean, to name a few. There are also plants everyone will recognize, things like Pansies, Bluebonnets, Clematis. They change them every day. They grow thousands of bulbs and different flowers in their greenhouse, then change them frequently. Karl and his staff are constantly putting on display the most perfect plants, so you see only the best when visiting.

Karl shows us the process and has set up a display to show the bulb cycle. When Daffodils or Tulips are planted in the fall there's not much visible going on. Put the bulb in the ground at the proper depth, then forget it till spring, but there is a lot happening in the meantime. There is root development in October, November and December, then come springtime you have plants that are beginning to stick their heads above ground. That's when you know something is happening. By mid-April you might have some foliage, by late April, early May, in Philly, flowers are in full bloom. It's important to find cultivar differences when choosing these plants. Find a plant that works in your area. We're always tempted to grow the beautiful, large cup Narcissus, like Brevor, but their heads can get heavy with wind and rain causing them to fall over. Unless you want to stake them, find something with a smaller flower. Narcissus Hawera has a smaller flower, stands up to wind and rain better and is a great perennial. Many people are tempted to not only deadhead but cut off the foliage at the base after they stop blooming. That is not good. Get the old seed pods off before the plant looses energy but leave the foliage on as long as possible. Some tie the foliage in knots or bundles, it is better to leave the foliage as natural as possible. This allows light to hit the foliage, which puts food into the bulbs and will help provide a better display next year. At Longwood they compost the bulbs at the end of the season because they're a display garden but in many parts of the country they're a perennial.

Additionally, Longwood showcases some unusual bulbs. One is Veltheimia, it's a South African bulb and has a beautiful shiny green leaf. Its common name is Winter Red Hot Poker. One can see the similarity to traditional Red Hot Pokers but the Veltheimias come in pinks and yellows. They have been growing them for years at Longwood. These Veltheimias, as exotic as they are, are easy to grow in the home, if you can't grow them outdoors.

Here they are displaying all types of bulbs that wouldn't naturally bloom together and they are blooming at the same time. They've done a great job of using these bulbs in unusual ways. Karl has also mixed bulbs with lots of underplantings. We look at a Narcissus cultivar, St. Patrick's Day. It's got a great purple Primrose underneath which is traditional for springtime. When planting Narcissus in October or November remember to mix in summer blooming bulbs, like Lilies. This cultivar is called Menorca. When you mix in summer bulbs they provide color after spring bulbs are gone. This is an example of succession planting. Joe also likes the way Karl has filled in the legs of the Lilies with Asparagus Fern. Not only do you have a different shade of green but a completely different texture. It fills out nicely and covers the legs. Joe also likes the under planting of Primrose under the Narcissus.

Karl has also utilized Blue Poppy. These plants are flown in from Alaska in the late fall. They pop them in the greenhouses during the cool season, they grow all winter, when they come into flower in spring they are placed in the conservatories. They last for just a few weeks, after that they're done and they compost them. Only gardeners in places like Seattle and Minnesota can actually grow these outdoors because they can't tolerate warm temperatures.

We next visit the Silver Garden. This is Longwood and they focus on heritage, horticulture and design. The design of this garden is incredible, designed by Isabel Green of Southern California who uses plants from her native Southern California region. The metaphorical riverbed has 4 different colors of stone. Surrounding the riverbed are silver foliages, colors and textures. The plants are very low on one side of the garden, that is because when this metaphorical river floods it keeps all the plants low on that side. As we continue forward the plants get larger and are able to expand. Some plants that may have been alive at one point, are now covered or surrounded with life. An example is a tree, covered in Spanish Moss and lots of different types of Tillandsias. The silver foliage that these plants possess is actually a lot of little hairs, which reflect the light and reflect the heat which allows the plants to conserve moisture in their dry, arid environment. Containers are exciting in our own homes, likewise we find containers in the Silver Garden. They reflect the dark stones present and the silver patterns. There are lots of shapes-round containers, flat containers and hanging baskets and all mix the plants together. You may not think of silver foliage in hanging baskets but they really offer an element of surprise. Of course the biggest surprise in this garden is the foliage that isn't silver. When one rounds the bend as the metaphorical river pinches together where everything is silver and arid you come across the tropical red foliage of Tropical Araseni. It truly catches your eye. In this garden there are plants from all over the world, plants like Dracaena Draco from the Canary Islands and the cactus collection here at Longwood which they've featured for 20 years.

The homeowner can learn from this. The most important element is design, remember what your garden is going to be used for. Think about that first and foremost before you even find a plant. At Longwood there are more than 800,000 visitors that pass through the gates each year and they need to provide a space for them. The walkway in this area is 15 feet wide and that is part of the design. The design started with the walkway, the plants came after that. The plants were plants they had elsewhere in the garden. When they took down their cactus house, they transplanted those cacti here, now they're part of a larger element in the Silver Garden. These plants are great for the climate in here, they only heat this room to 45 degrees. Other areas are warmer, but they save on energy by using plants that work in this climate. All these are elements of the design philosophy.

Eric Johnson provides this weeks design tip. One of the best ways to bring excitement and interest to your garden is to use dynamic color combinations. Eric has several he shows us that are wonderful to use in the garden. One is, Cortiline Barriei, a nice dark leaf plant, under planted with Sambucus Black Lace. Also, in the world of Heucheras we have some fantastic choices. Heuchera Marmalaid is a nice rich orange. Imagine this painted with Heuchera Lime Ricky. What a nice way to bring color and interest to your garden. See: Garden Tip - on web site

In the true Mediterranean region you're going to have the most amount of flowering plant growth in the wintertime, when it's cool and there is a lot of moisture. By design, in this garden at Longwood, they've created a meadow to circle around the water feature. And the water feature really tells the story of how, in a dry, dusty Mediterranean climate water is precious. They collect it in small bowls and channel it to a reservoir and from there, that water is then dispersed to the gardens around it. Scholars feel that the Garden of Eden originated in the Mediterranean climate so that really is the oldest type of gardening. Now, here in this Mediterranean Garden they've recreated those exact same plants on a dry sandstone path. But they've also brought that into the present time by utilizing the newest materials, like stainless steel. Stainless steel benches, the incredible arches, all are made of stainless steel, some of it is covered in Hardenbershia. The stainless reflects the roofline which is a beautiful Gothic arched roof which showcases the plants beautifully.

Everyone has Tulips and Daffodils. At Longwood they grow species-type Tulips and Daffodils, as well as plants that actually came from the Mediterranean region - things like Phormium, the New Zealand Flax which are great in containers all around the country. Everyone knows little Daisies, a different plant is Argyrantheum, it is available in pinks, whites, lavenders - all those colors can be found. Also present are plants like Melasphaerula, a white flowering South African bulb which adds a great sense of continuity and is truly a Mediterranean plant. In some places of the country some of these might be considered a weed. In southern California you'll find lots of these plants growing outdoors. Some, like the Melasphaerula, get a little too excited and will seed in and provide lots of volunteers throughout the season. Here they also have Aloe. You don't see Aloes blooming too much, except in the wintertime. This is a relative of the medicinal Aloe, the burn plant, which is oftentimes found in the home. In front of the Aloe is a plant called Kate Cow Slip, or Lachenalia. It has beautiful red, as well as purples, whites, even yellow flowers. In South Africa the leaves lay flat against the ground, they're gelatinous on the inside and as the cows walk by, they'd actually slip on the foliage because it's so slippery. Karl also has a South African native, Melianthus Major. It has beautiful silvery foliage with a serrated leaf edge. Some people think it smells like peanut butter if you rub it. They have a South American Amaryllis, Amaryllis Papilio. It has chartreuse and red flowers. Anyone across the country can grow it in a pot. Agave Sisalana is economically important. The foliage of the plant, when the fibers are pulled, will stretch. They are strong and make sizeable rugs. It's a nice plant. Joe notices a tree. In southern California it is called a Pepper Tree. One doesn't get pepper from it but instead pepper berries. Here they have one of Karl's favorites the Veltheimia, the Winter Red Hot Poker, with its pink flowers. It is planted next to a purple Cyclamen. These are inter-planted with yellow Tulips, Tulip Batalinii, a species Tulip that has a really nice soft yellow which compliments the yellow Clivia very nicely. They've been breeding yellow Clivia here for 15 years. Here they look for a certain yellow and it took them a long time to get that color. Now anyone can have a yellow Clivia from their collection.

We next look at espalier. This is one of the oldest examples of framing plants. Mr. du Pont's favorite fruit was the Nectarine. This can also be done with Peaches, Apples, Pears, even Plums. The key for fruit production is making sure the branches are trained flat against the frame, at a 45 degree angle. Here they use raphia, which is a natural material, to tie the branches back throughout the entire summer as they grow. Once the flowers form fruits they actually pull off extras to make sure each tree has plenty of room to expand. Oftentimes they'll get 200 fruits from one tree. Production would be similar for a tree in its natural form but with this method they're saving space, allowing Longwood to grow 10 to 12 different types of fruits in the same area.

They train Clematis in extraordinary ways as well. In one space they're growing it on frames with a sphere on top. Joe comments that in normal home situations one might have 1 or 2 vines growing up, say a mailbox. Here there are 8 to 10 plants. They train the plants from the beginning and keep their roots in the shade and their leaves in the sun. As they clamber up the frame they tie them on, the key is not to prune these plants. The tips are where all the new growth and flowers are, so the more tips you have the more flowers you're going to have to completely cover the frame. At Longwood they grow Clematis on different frames- spirals, even baskets. Since this is a vine we don't normally think of it as hanging down, but if you train it around the basket it will perform well.

We next visit the newly renovated East Conservatory. This is a garden that will carry Longwood into the next 100 years. Within this garden they have used the most innovative materials, things like stainless steel, bronze and several types of granite. This helps ensure that the displays will last well into the next century. Some of the plants in here are almost a century old. Things like Encephalartos Woodii. It is a huge Cycad and there are only about 32 of them in the entire world. They have incredible displays like the beautiful blue Centaureas, which were developed at Longwood over a 10 to 15 year period. They made sure they have just the right color blue and are just the right height. They have shrubs from all over the world - South Africa, South America, Australia, even the Mediterranean basin which ensures they have beautiful plants flowering throughout the year.

They have tried to think of everything within this space. They have design innovations in lighting, ventilation and temperature control. Lights are designed to be emergency lighting, they have cast bronze lanterns, waterfalls with stainless lips flow over incredibly beautiful lights that ventilate the tunnel system that's underneath. Sometimes they tell people that this is a rooftop garden because underneath is a full basement. There is more square footage underneath than above. The space looks expansive with about half an acre under 1 roof. All the Palm trees, Bamboos, everything came in full size. It's as if they have been here for 100 years, yet they have been here for less than 6 months.

The Conservatory is grand but they have areas more typical for the average homeowner. They have intimate garden spaces with elements that could be utilized in our own gardens. They have a paving system, they've inlaid theirs with a palm print. That can be done by stamping your concrete or by utilizing inlaid bricks. Something like a retaining wall, which is functional, they've made into a seating area and a place to display interesting plant materials. Exotic and electric orange and purple colors are complimented by a soft container and a red pot ties in with a lovely Fatshedera. No intimate garden space is complete without a water feature and in the Court of Palms they have a single jet emerging from a bronze fountain. It's surrounded by Brazilian blue granite which is very rare. They have beautiful South American Palm trees and a great medley of green foliages and textures underneath. It also features things like English Ivy, the Blechnum Tree Ferns and Aspidistra, sometimes called Cast Iron Plant. It's a wonderful area.

Another room feels enclosed to Joe. It is the Court of Bamboo and is surrounded on 3 sides by hedges, 1 of them is beautiful Black Bamboo. There are 2 types of Bamboo, the Black and the Silver. It provides an intimate space, very quiet when walking around a relatively large open space. A word of caution, this is a spreading plant and it needs to be contained to make sure it doesn't spread across the entire garden. In lieu of spreading Bamboo one can use the clumping form. There are lots of clumping forms available, they don't provide the incredible stature but are much safer in the home garden. To protect oneself from spreading bamboo, dig a trench about 12 inches deep. It's important to put this barrier in the ground, something stainless or plastic to make sure it doesn't spread. When you start to see the palms spread, as the plant tries to get out, cut them off with a shovel, just knock it down because once you have Bamboo in your garden it will be difficult to get rid of it. Joe likes the shadowing effect on the floor. When you look at the stalks of the Black bamboo you see it reflected on the floor, but it's not a reflection. This has been created in the floor similarly to the stamping discussed earlier. The sense of enclosure is created by 2 walls of plant material. The permanent hedges are Sesiduom which creates a garden space you can't see through. It provides a sense of enclosure. Whether in a sunny situation or a shady back or front yard there is a plant material that will provide that enclosed feeling. You just have to pick the right plant for the right space. Choose a hedge that won't get so tall you can't easily maintain it, find something that's going to work, that won't need pruning several times a year because you always want gardening to be fun. If you do this you'll have a garden space that works for you.

We've barely scratched the surface of Longwood Gardens, so we'll be back. Joe thanks Karl for showing us this beautiful garden. We recommend every garden lover visit Longwood Gardens. Thanks Karl.

Links ::

Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn's Landing
Longwood Gardens

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