longwood gardens kennett square

Your Ultimate Guide to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square

A beautiful attraction, Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square boats horticultural excellence and botanical diversity. Founded in 1906 by Pierre du Pont, this world-renowned garden spans over 1,077 acres and is home to about 11,000 varieties of plants, making it a beacon for plant enthusiasts and tourists alike. Its global reputation stems from its dedication to the fields of botany, design, education, and art, marking it as a pinnacle of garden excellence.

Dive into Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, from its historical roots under the vision of Pierre du Pont to its current status as a living museum of plant diversity. Visitors can expect to explore sections that highlight garden attractions, seasonal displays, the iconic fountains, and the educational initiatives that underscore Longwood’s commitment to conservation and sustainability. Additionally, practical tips for visiting Longwood Gardens, including the best times to visit, will ensure readers have all they need to plan an unforgettable trip to this horticultural paradise in Kennett Square.

The Rich History of Longwood Gardens

The history of Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square is a narrative deeply rooted in the land and its past stewards. This story begins long before it became one of the premier horticultural display gardens in the United States, tracing back to the original owners of the land, the Lenni Lenape tribe. The transformation from indigenous land to a Quaker farmer’s estate, and eventually to the horticultural marvel under Pierre S. du Pont, is a testament to the garden’s rich heritage.

  • 1700s: The journey of Longwood Gardens began when George Peirce, a Quaker farmer, purchased 402 acres of land in 1700. By 1730, a brick farmhouse, which still stands today as the Peirce-du Pont House, was built by Joshua Peirce, George’s son. This period marked the beginnings of what would become a significant arboretum, initiated by Samuel and Joshua, George’s grandsons, in 1798.
  • 1800s to Early 1900s: By the mid-19th century, the arboretum boasted one of the nation’s finest collections of trees. However, it was Pierre S. du Pont’s acquisition of the property in 1906, primarily to preserve these trees, that set the stage for Longwood Gardens’ future. Du Pont’s vision led to the establishment of the garden’s first conservatory in 1914 and the iconic Main Fountain Garden in 1928, further solidifying Longwood’s status in the realm of botanical gardens.
  • Public Opening and Beyond: Longwood Gardens officially opened to the public in 1921, marking a new chapter in its history. The gardens now span 1,077 acres, featuring a diverse array of gardens, woodlands, and meadows. The establishment of a herbarium to document its living plant collection and the recognition received for its educational and preservation efforts highlight Longwood’s ongoing commitment to botany, design, education, and art.

The evolution of Longwood Gardens from indigenous land to a Quaker farm, and ultimately to a horticultural masterpiece under Pierre S. du Pont, underscores a legacy of stewardship and vision. Its rich history not only honors the past but also paves the way for future generations to enjoy and learn from its beauty and diversity.

longwood gardens kennett square

Garden Highlights and Must-See Attractions

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square offers an unparalleled experience for visitors, showcasing an impressive diversity of plants and breathtaking landscapes that span over 1,000 acres. Here’s a closer look at some of the garden highlights and must-see attractions that make this destination a must-visit near Philadelphia:

  • Seasonal Splendors:
    • Spring: The garden bursts into color with magnolias, tulips, and azaleas.
    • Summer: Roses and water lilies take center stage, offering vibrant displays.
    • Fall: A palette of foliage and chrysanthemums enchants visitors.
    • Winter: The beauty of camellias, orchids, and palms captivates even in the colder months.
  • Themed Gardens and Spaces:
    • The Meadow Garden: Ideal for a leisurely stroll among wildflowers and witnessing the garden’s diverse wildlife, including deer and butterflies.
    • The Conservatory: Home to the Exhibition Hall, Acacia Passage, and the Orangery, it’s a haven for plant lovers, showcasing more than 9,000 species and varieties of plants.
    • The Main Fountain Garden, the Italian Water Garden, and the Idea Garden: Each offers unique thematic elements, from intricate water displays to innovative gardening techniques.
  • Family-Friendly and Educational Attractions:
    • The Indoor Children’s Garden: Provides a safe and engaging space for young ones to explore and learn about the natural world.
    • Wildlife Observation: The garden’s habitat supports a variety of wildlife, including birds, beavers, bees, offering educational opportunities about local ecosystems.

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square is not just a garden; it’s a living museum where each visit offers something new, depending on the season. Whether you’re meandering through the expansive Meadow Garden, marveling at the historic trees, or enjoying the spectacle of the fountain shows, there’s always something to see and learn. With its combination of outdoor and indoor gardens, picturesque meadows, and woodlands, Longwood Gardens remains a testament to the beauty and diversity of the natural world, inviting visitors of all ages to explore and appreciate its wonders.

Seasonal Events and Exhibits

longwood gardens kennett square

At Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, the calendar brims with seasonal events and exhibits, making each visit unique. From the awakening blooms of spring to the festive cheer of winter, the gardens offer a year-round spectacle that celebrates the beauty and diversity of nature. Below are some of the seasonal highlights visitors can look forward to:

  • Spring to Summer:
    • Spring Blooms (March 30 to May 5, 2024): The gardens come alive with the vibrant colors of magnolias, tulips, and azaleas, marking the beginning of the spring season.
    • Easter Weekend (March 30 & 31, 2024): A flower-filled stroll complemented by live String Quartet Music in the Conservatory, creating a serene ambiance.
    • Mother’s Day Weekend (May 9 to 12, 2024): Coinciding with the Festival of Fountains, this weekend celebrates mothers with the grand return of daily fountain performances.
    • Festival of Fountains (Starting May 9, 2024): Ushering in the summer with a splash, the festival features the garden’s renowned fountain shows, a highlight for many visitors.
  • Autumn to Winter:
    • Dahlia Show (September 7 & 8, 2024): The Ballroom becomes a canvas for the brilliant hues of dahlia blooms, hosted by The Greater Philadelphia Dahlia Society.
    • Chrysanthemum Festival: A fall favorite, this festival showcases the chrysanthemum in all its forms and colors, a true testament to the garden’s horticultural prowess.
    • A Longwood Christmas: The holiday season at Longwood is a spectacle of half a million twinkling lights, seasonal plants, and fountain waters dancing to Christmas tunes. Timed admission tickets are required for this enchanting display.

Throughout the year, Longwood Gardens hosts a variety of events, including the Summer Performance Series with its energetic outdoor concerts, and the Fireworks & Fountains Shows in July, August, and September, offering visitors a dazzling nighttime experience. Additionally, educational programs, children’s activities, and guided tours enrich the visitor experience, ensuring there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Whether it’s the serene beauty of the spring blooms, the energetic summer festivals, the rich hues of autumn, or the festive cheer of winter, Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square promises a memorable visit any time of the year.

The Fountains at Longwood Gardens

longwood gardens kennett square

The Fountains at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square are a spectacle of engineering and artistry, designed to captivate visitors with their beauty and complexity. Here’s a detailed look at what you can expect:

Main Fountain Garden Performances

  • Daytime Shows: From May 9 through August 28, 2024, enjoy performances at 11:15 am, 1:15 pm, 3:15 pm, and 5:15 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. On Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, an additional show at 8:15 pm lights up the evening.
  • Late Summer to Fall Schedule: From August 29 through October 27, 2024, the schedule shifts slightly with shows at 11:15 am, 1:15 pm, 3:15 pm, and 5:15 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. Thursday through Saturday, the last show is at 7:15 pm.
  • Special Illuminated Performances: On Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, between May 9 and October 26, 2024, the gardens host illuminated fountain performances starting at 9:15 p.m., free with garden admission. These shows combine water, music, and lights in a mesmerizing dance.

Open Air Theatre and Italian Water Garden

  • Open Air Theatre Shows: Daily performances at 10:15 am, with additional shows every 15 minutes from noon. This venue features 750 jets in changing patterns, set to music, offering a unique experience each time.
  • Italian Water Garden: Available for viewing throughout the season, this area provides a tranquil space with water features inspired by Italian gardens, perfect for reflection and relaxation.

Technological Marvels and Restoration

  • 2017 Upgrades: Both the Main Fountain Garden and the Open Air Theatre benefited from significant upgrades in 2017, introducing 1,719 jets that can reach up to 175 feet, twirling and dancing to the music during daytime and special nighttime shows.
  • Restoration and Innovation: The Main Fountain Garden has been meticulously restored, now featuring a cutting-edge sound and lighting system to enhance the visual spectacle. Daily performances offer a brief narrated background and musical accompaniment, showcasing the garden’s commitment to blending tradition with innovation.

The Fountains at Longwood Gardens offer an array of performances and experiences, from the grandeur of the Main Fountain Garden to the intimate charm of the Italian Water Garden. Whether you’re witnessing the dynamic daytime shows or the enchanting illuminated performances, the fountains at Longwood Gardens promise a memorable experience for all visitors.

Educational Programs and Workshops

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square is not just a place of beauty, but also a center for learning and education, offering a wide array of programs and workshops designed to inspire and educate visitors of all ages. From the curious amateur gardener to the seasoned horticulturist, there’s something for everyone. Here’s an overview of the educational opportunities available:

Educational Programs and Workshops:

  • For Individuals and Members:
    • Science Series: Attendees can delve into plant research and conservation projects, free with garden admission.
    • Spotlight Tours: These free 30-minute tours offer insights into various aspects of Longwood Gardens, allowing visitors to explore specific themes or areas in depth.
    • Workshops: A range of classes including Bulbs for BeginnersFoliage TerrariumsComposting 101, and Painting Tulips En Plein Air provide hands-on learning experiences. Some workshops, like Sustainable Landscape Design and Hidcote: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, are available online for convenience.
  • For Families, Youth, and Educators:
    • Family & Youth Programs: Activities designed for younger visitors include Scout Programs, Family Learning sessions, Youth Workshops, and engaging hands-on activities.
    • Educational Programs for Teachers and Students: Longwood Gardens extends its educational reach to the classroom with offerings like Grades K-8 Arbor Day Webinars and Pre-K Self-Guided Field Trips, enriching the learning experience for students and educators alike.
  • Advanced Learning Opportunities:
    • College & University Programs: These include Internships for U.S. students, a Professional Horticulture Program, and Continuing Education opportunities, providing pathways for those seeking careers in horticulture and related fields.
    • The Longwood Fellows Program: A 13-month, residential experience designed for individuals passionate about leading in public horticulture environments, emphasizing leadership and innovation.

Special Programs and Career Exploration:

  • Virtual Field Trip: Focused on careers in horticulture, this program is tailored for middle and high school students, offering a glimpse into the diverse opportunities within the field.
  • Green Careers Exploration Day: An initiative allowing students to learn about the various careers available at Longwood Gardens, from horticulture and science to guest services and educational roles.

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square fosters a culture of learning and discovery, offering a plethora of educational programs that cater to a diverse audience. Whether it’s through hands-on workshops, educational tours, or advanced learning opportunities, visitors are invited to deepen their understanding of the natural world and explore the many facets of horticulture and conservation. These programs not only enhance the visitor experience but also underline Longwood’s commitment to education, research, and the promotion of green careers.

longwood gardens kennett square

Art and Performances

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square enriches the visitor experience not only through its breathtaking landscapes and gardens but also through a vibrant array of art and performances that span across various genres and cultures. Here’s a glimpse into the upcoming and past events that have colored the canvas of Longwood Gardens with the hues of artistic brilliance:

  • Upcoming Highlights:
    • April 14, 2024: An Afternoon with Hilton Carter, featuring a talk, demo, and book signing by the renowned plant and interior stylist. This event promises to blend the worlds of botany and design, offering insights into creating plant-filled spaces.
    • April 26, 2024: Bryan Anderson, the winner of the 2023 Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition, will grace the Ballroom with his performance, showcasing the majestic soundscapes that can only be produced by Longwood’s grand organ.
    • Notable Performances: The stage at Longwood Gardens will also host a diverse lineup of artists including The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain, jazz vibraphonist Behn Gillece, singer-songwriter Phillip Michael-Scales, four-time Grammy Award winner Angélique Kidjo, banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, jazz legend Dianne Reeves, multi-instrumentalist John Beasley, and folk musician Rhiannon Giddens, offering a rich tapestry of musical genres and styles.
  • Past Performances:
    • Longwood Gardens has been a stage for artists of high calibre such as jazz vocalist Veronica Swift, clarinetist Anat Cohen, and singer Lila Downs, enriching the gardens with their unique musical narratives and connecting audiences to diverse musical traditions.
  • Seasonal Series and Special Events:
    • Longwood Gardens Performance Series (October 12, 2023, to November 3, 2023): This series has featured the British a cappella vocal ensemble VOCES8, the Kennett Symphony, Gaelic solo artist Julie Fowlis, and organist Peter Richard Conte, each bringing their distinct sounds to the heart of the gardens.
    • Art Walk (October 26, 2023): Offers a unique blend of art and nature with a guided walk focusing on the intricate details of the gardens, complemented by a sketching activity. The event culminates with an illuminated fountain performance in the Main Fountain Garden at 8:15 PM, marrying the visual arts with the kinetic artistry of water.

These events and performances at Longwood Gardens not only highlight the garden’s commitment to presenting high-quality art but also underscore its role as a cultural hub in Kennett Square, inviting visitors to explore the intersection of nature, art, and music in a singular, immersive experience.

Conservation Efforts and Sustainability

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square is not only a place of immense beauty but also a beacon of sustainability and conservation. Their comprehensive approach to sustainability encompasses everything from the well-being of people and guests to the health of plants, gardens, infrastructure, systems, and natural resources. This commitment is guided by the American Public Gardens Association Sustainability Index and is evident in every aspect of their operations.

  • Sustainability Initiatives:
    • Soil to Sky Management Plan: A strategic approach to resource management, focusing on ecological land management and the preservation of natural areas, which extend beyond the formal gardens to include nearly 750 acres of natural landscapes.
    • Recycling and Composting: Longwood leads in innovative practices, recycling 37 tons of paper, 16 tons of corrugated cardboard, and over 11,000 plant pots and trays in the past five years. Their composting efforts have transformed 10,000 cubic yards of environmental and food debris into valuable compost, valued at $85,000.
    • Water Conservation: The staff employs proven irrigation systems and water-management approaches, including a sophisticated system that collects stormwater and recirculates it through water features and restrooms. This system is supported by a 10-acre solar field that generates 2 million kilowatt-hours per year, powering the garden’s needs sustainably.
  • Innovative Infrastructure:
    • The New Glasshouse: Showcases sustainability through a unique combination of passive and tempering strategies. It uses natural ventilation during warm months and an automated shading system to reduce solar heat gain, minimizing the need for artificial cooling.
    • Self-Contained Water Management System: This system ensures that all water used within Longwood Gardens is managed efficiently, from capturing overflow from exterior water features to storing it in large underground tanks for later use.

Longwood Gardens’ dedication to conservation and sustainability is also reflected in their educational programs, guided tours, and research efforts. They offer various programs aimed at educating visitors about the importance of sustainability and the measures they can take to contribute to a healthier planet. Through these efforts, Longwood Gardens not only preserves its natural beauty and resources but also serves as a model for ecological stewardship and sustainable practices in the community.

Visitor Information: Tips and Best Times to Visit

Planning your visit to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square ensures a seamless and enjoyable experience. Here are some essential tips and the best times to visit:

Admission and Membership

  • General Admission:
    • Adults: $25
    • Seniors (62+): $22
    • Students (5-18 or with valid ID): $13
    • Children under 5: Free
  • Memberships: Start at $90 per year for an individual, offering unlimited access and special benefits.
  • Special Tickets: Timed admission is required for A Longwood Christmas, highlighting the need to plan ahead for holiday visits.

Accessibility and Facilities

  • Wheelchair Accessibility: The gardens are fully accessible, with complimentary wheelchairs available on a first-come, first-served basis. Motorized wheelchairs and strollers can also be rented.
  • Dining Options: Several dining choices are available, from the casual atmosphere of The Café and Beer Garden to the upscale dining experience at 1906. Note that a garden ticket is required to access these dining areas.
  • Amenities: Free on-site parking, air-conditioned buildings, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a cell phone charging station enhance the visitor experience.

Visiting Tips

  • Best Times to Visit:
    • Weekdays: Less crowded compared to weekends.
    • Early Morning or Late Afternoon: Avoid peak hours by arriving early or later in the day.
    • Spring and Summer: Offer the most blooms, making these seasons highly recommended for a visit.
  • Preparation:
    • Comfortable Footwear: Essential for exploring the extensive grounds.
    • Weather Appropriate Gear: Sunscreen and hats for sunny days; umbrellas or ponchos for rain.
  • Picnicking: While outside food or beverages (except water) are not permitted, picnics can be enjoyed in designated areas.

By considering these tips and planning your visit accordingly, you can ensure a delightful and memorable experience at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a returning enthusiast, there’s always something new and enchanting to discover in this verdant paradise. For more info, visit their website here.

As we reflect on the exploration of Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, it’s clear that this horticultural paradise offers more than just a visual feast; it embodies a legacy of botanical excellence, historical richness, and a commitment to conservation and education. The gardens serve as a living museum where every path and every season unveils a new aspect of natural beauty and artistic expression, from the grandeur of the fountains to the intricate designs of the themed gardens and conservatories. It’s a testament to the vision of Pierre du Pont and the enduring efforts of countless individuals dedicated to preserving this natural marvel for future generations.

Stepping into Longwood Gardens is an invitation to immerse oneself in the splendor of nature, art, and human ingenuity. Whether it’s the tranquility of the Italian Water Garden, the dynamic performances of the fountains, or the educational enrichment offered through its various programs, Longwood presents an enriching experience for all visitors. As we conclude this guide, we’re reminded of the garden’s broader significance as a beacon of sustainability, a source of inspiration, and a communal space that welcomes everyone to explore, learn, and connect with the natural world in profound ways.


Q: What is the recommended duration for a visit to Longwood Gardens? A: It is advised to allocate at least three to four hours to experience a significant portion of Longwood Gardens, including the Conservatory, to make the most of your visit.

Q: Are visitors allowed to bring their own food to Longwood Gardens? A: Guests are not permitted to bring coolers, food, or beverages, with the exception of water, into the Gardens. However, food is allowed in the designated picnic area, which is available during certain seasons.

Q: What are the parking fees at Longwood Gardens? A: Parking at Longwood Gardens is complimentary for all visitors. The facility provides free parking in all of its parking lots, and during times of high visitor volume, additional parking is made available on an on-site grass overflow lot or an off-site paved lot.

Q: Can visitors bring water bottles into Longwood Gardens? A: Yes, visitors are welcome to bring water into Longwood Gardens. Additionally, items such as fidgets, headphones, or other personal comfort tools are permitted. Snacks are allowed inside the Gardens, but full picnics are not. Remember to have your Gardens Admission Ticket or Member reservation and photo ID ready for entry.