Thirty years ago a wise master gardener showed me a brochure and said, “You should take this trip to see the gardens of the Brandywine Valley, south of Philadelphia.” She also mentioned Butchart Gardens in Vancouver and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ont.
I thought, “Not for me. I’ll never have time or money for trips like that, and anyway those places have nothing to teach a real home gardener.”
I was wrong. Grand or tiny, gardens teach us – about nature, about design, about art, and often a lot about ourselves. And some garden tourism is very affordable or, in the case of Western New York, practically free.
Longwood Gardens (longwoodgardens.org), in Kennett Square, Pa., is one of the greatest gardens in the world, exemplifying stewardship, classic design and the highest standards of modern horticulture. Industrialist Pierre du Pont purchased it from the Pierce family in 1906, when their arboretum was about to be sold for lumber. A visit is stunning, from the year-round grandeur of the ever-changing conservatory, the musically timed 5-acre dancing fountain performances, the grandfather and newer (labeled) trees, and the forest, meadow and water-lily ponds. And in all growing seasons, the annual and perennial flower borders, vistas and vignettes.
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Longwood, like other estate gardens from London to Florida to our Hudson River Valley, teaches us applicable design principles – focal points, backdrops, using swaths of the same plant, layering, use of color and texture. And it teaches us the power of protecting great spaces for future generations. Thank you to the DuPonts and other benefactors who left us gardens, art and undamaged ecosystems.
Chanticler (chanticleergarden.org), in Wayne, Pa., is called “a pleasure garden.” It offers a startling contrast with Longwood in its free-flowing, imaginative and romantic