Last updated on August 3rd, 2020
For over twenty years, I have gone each spring to photograph the peak tulip displays at Longwood Gardens in the Brandywine Valley of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Since I cannot go this year, I am consoling myself with all my Longwood Gardens spring photos. I am sharing some of my best to brighten up your spring day.
Tulips are among my favorite flowers. I can’t tell you why – they just are. I plant a few bags of tulip bulbs every fall, knowing that come spring I will get a bountiful bouquet of color for my house. But the hundred or so flowers I plant are a mere drop in the ocean compared to the hundreds of thousands of spring bulbs planted each fall at Longwood Gardens.
Longwood Gardens’ modern day history starts in 1700 when George Peirce, a Quaker farmer, purchased 402 acres of land from William Penn’s commissioners. In 1798, George’s grandsons, who were interested in natural history, planted a 15 acre arboretum of trees they had collected from the area and from leading botanists.
By 1906 the well established trees were in danger of going under the saw to a lumber mill when Pierre S. DuPont purchased the property in order to protect the trees. Pierre was the president of the DuPont company from 1915 to 1919 and also managed General Motors from 1915 to 1920. He had worked his way up in the company after receiving a degree in chemistry from MIT in 1890 and developing a smokeless gunpowder in 1892 along with his cousin, another DuPont family member.
After purchasing the Pierce’s Park property, Pierre continued to expand the land and made the farmhouse his summer home (though he only lived about 10 miles down the road in Wilmington, DE). Until his death in 1954, Pierre continued to develop and grow the gardens with elements from the many gardens he visited on his travels to Europe. He added a variety of elaborate fountains, an open air theater, a large conservatory which is still used today and a 10,010 pipe Aeolian organ, also still in use.
Initially, Pierre’s grand garden was used to entertain family and friends. But as his ideas and projects kept growing, the property and its wonders were also opened to the public. Upon his death, Pierre left a well thought out and well funded plan that ensured Longwood’s continued future and growth. Today, Longwood Gardens is one of the premier horticultural display garden in the US, and you can still walk under the old and stately trees in Pierce’s Woods.
I am fortunate that I live only a few miles from Longwood Gardens and have an annual membership that lets me enjoy the garden in all seasons. My favorite time of year to visit though is spring, especially when the waves of tulip displays are in full bloom.
One of the horticultural classes I took many years ago at Longwood focused on spring flowering bulbs. There I learned that even though we associate the tulip flower with Holland, the native tulip species originated in the steppes of Central Asia. The cultivated version of the tulip appeared in Turkish gardens in the 1500’s and the flower became the symbol of the Ottoman Empire’s royal family. Tulips are still prized in Turkey today and I saw some of the prettiest displays there on my early spring tour of Turkey a few years ago.
By the mid 1500’s cultivated tulips reached central Europe, and in 1571 they arrived in Holland where this exotic flower created both a cultural and a financial “tulip mania”. With its long cool spring temperatures, Holland has the optimum conditions for growing tulips, and the billions of bulbs produced annually are still an important element of the Dutch economy.
There are actually thirteen different tulip classifications that group the many varieties of cultivated tulips by when they bloom, the flower shape, flower height, how many layers of petals, and petal shape. At Longwood, you will most likely see all of them each spring.
Longwood ‘s the 600 foot long Flower Garden Walk was the first garden that Pierre DuPont installed in 1907. Throughout the flowering season from April till October, the beds bloom in a progression of colors starting with white and then progress to warm shades of yellow, orange and red. Beyond a round pool and fountain in the center of the flower walk, the beds then continue with the cooler shades of pink, purple, violet and blue.
Each fall, the Longwood gardeners and volunteers plant tens of thousands of bulbs in the flower garden walk that include tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. The display is designed to to have a succession of blooms so that the spring color lasts for many weeks. The season’s denouement comes when the many varieties, shapes and colors in the tulip beds all bloom simultaneously.
Sharing my Longwood Gardens spring photos
The Flower Garden Walk
In the Idea Garden
Each year the idea garden at Longwood Gardens is planted with a patchwork of different varieties and colors of tulips. Whereas the Flower Garden Walk is a soothing progression of colors, in the Idea Garden the flowers are growing in a riotous color mix that, nevertheless, works together.
A visit to longwood Gardens is a wonderful experience any time of year, not just in spring when a succession of flowering trees and shrubs compliment the many blooming bulbs. You can attend varied musical concerts throughout the year in the garden or the conservatory. In Summer, the highlights are the very popular fireworks and Fountains displays. Fall brings a delightful miniature train display, colorful autumn foliage and the annual chrysanthemum festival. For Christmas, Longwood goes all out with millions of lights strung all over the gardens and unique seasonal displays in the conservatory.
There are 36 public gardens in the greater Philadelphia area which is why it is called America’s Garden Capital, with five of them in the Brandywine Valley where I live. You can read my article in Travel World International Magazine about Spring Blossoms in the Brandywine Valley Gardens.
I hope these Longwood Gardens spring photos have brought a little sunshine, hope, joy and color into your day.
Thanks for visiting.