Longwood Gardens – Kennett Square, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura
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Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

Longwood Gardens

This palatial botanical garden is home to one of the largest pipe organs ever installed in a private residence, and a piece of Wood's cycad. 

Longwood Gardens is open year-round, and at over 1,077 acres of fountains, woodlands, gardens and a host of events, it could take that long to soak everything in.

With its extensive horticultural and architectural offerings, Longwood is one of the most splendid botanical gardens in the United States. Originally a Quaker farm at its conception in 1700, it became more of an arboretum nearly a century later, and has been open to the public as such since, despite being turned into a private residence in 1906, when its new owner—Industrialist Pierre S. du Pont—rapidly expanded the estate after coming home from attending each world fair and returning inspired.

One of these inspirations came in the form of a giant pipe organ, its 10,010 pipes carried to Longwood via 14 railway freight cars. It resides in the Longwood ballroom, where it recently underwent a restoration and can once again be heard blowing its massive windy notes through the magnificent greenhouse structure, the conservatory.

Another extraordinary attraction at Longwood is the “King of the Conservatory,” the extremely rare Encephalartos woodii, an offset from the original Wood’s Cycad. This prized specimen is extinct in nature, and only a few specimens exist is a handful of botanical gardens around the world, including Kew GardensHortus Botanicus Amsterdam, the Botanical Garden of Naples, and the site of the original specimen, Durban Botanic Gardens in South Africa. Anxious to preserve the practically extinct species, Longwood botanists have successfully propagated several pups, although survival rate is still very low. 

If a record-breaking pipe organ and one of the rarest living things on earth doesn’t do it for you, Longwood has acres and acres of attractions; the Palm House, an Outdoor Water Garden display, The Orangery, Acacia Passage, the Orchid House—5,500 species in the conservatory alone, 11,000 throughout the 20 outdoor gardens and rows of climate-controlled greenhouses. In addition, Longwood has an Orchid Extravaganza, Spring Blooms (including 240,000 tulips and other spring bulbs), a Festival of Fountains, featuring the Main Fountain Garden, the Mum festival, and A Longwood Christmas, in the peak season.

One of the many favorites of visitors is the Waterlily Display, which includes nine pools full of exotic waterlilies, cannas, and lotuses. You can see night-blooming waterlilies, lotuses, and many other aquatic plants, including the blooms of the world’s largest waterlily, the Victoria.

Founder Pierre du Pont was fascinated by water. Reflecting on this, Longwood has the most fountains in an American botanical garden. There’s an Eye of Water, an Italian Water Garden, the Main Fountain Garden, and many other water features throughout the gardens.

Events include lectures, tours, demonstrations, children’s programs, live music, fireworks, fountain shows…more than anyone garden lover could possibly experience in one visit, making the estate somewhere you can visit over and over and always find something new.