Meadow views and fantasy treehouses at Longwood Gardens


Contrasting with the many formal and traditional gardens at Longwood Gardens (a Philadelphia-area estate garden I visited earlier this month), the 2-year-old Meadow Garden presents an appearance of wild nature. The meadow’s 86 rolling acres of native grasses, perennials, and wildflowers come into view from a shady woodland path, offering a surprising openness and long views — not to mention 3 miles of walking trails — that beg for exploration.


From a distance it’s a blanket of green, but up close you enjoy flowering penstemon…


…daisies…


…and thistles.


I egged on my friend Diana/Sharing Nature’s Garden for an extended hike through the sunny meadow to the restored Webb Farmhouse. Built in the early 1700s by William Webb, who farmed this land, the house and its acreage were eventually purchased by Longwood’s founder, Pierre S. du Pont, to preserve views and trees.


A staff member we encountered along the trail told us that horticulture students were housed here before the restoration, when it was in much more primitive shape. Today, one of the downstairs rooms is decorated to look as it might have in the 1700s — with the addition of electric lighting and air conditioning.


The other room is an educational gallery space that includes this cool metalwork spiderweb in one of the windows. A web for the Webb Farmhouse! We spent at least an hour traversing the meadow trails, which I really enjoyed.


As we left the meadow, we paused on a bridge over Hourglass Pond and spotted a swimming snake, a sign of a healthy ecosystem.


Moving on, we came to a grove of pines, with straight black trunks softened by cloud-like greenery.


…and with a little creek running through.


Weirs along the creek slow the flow.


These pretty pink flowers appear to like wet feet.


Scattered throughout the grounds, three fabulous “treehouses” (they’re actually freestanding, not attached to surrounding trees) offer exploratory and make-believe fun for kids and kids at heart. The Canopy Cathedral, grandest of the three, stands 3 stories high and was built to resemble a Norwegian church.


On the way up the stairs, you encounter a couple of carved dragons, including this one with a rather bored expression. Diana looks a lot happier to be there.


Inside — wow, I could almost imagine living here.


A large diamond-paned window allows an expansive view.


We almost didn’t get to visit this treehouse, as the windstorm that tore through the region the day before had knocked over a gigantic tree that luckily missed the treehouse. A crew was chainsawing it into pieces throughout the morning and noontime hours, but by the afternoon they’d hauled it away and the area was reopened to visitors.


Smaller but higher, The Birdhouse puts you in the tree canopy. Binoculars and bird-watching guides stashed on the upper deck and inside suggest the perfect way to spend your time up there.


Lookout Loft is accessed via a long ramp, making it accessible to anyone with mobility issues.


Its open design and deck-like spaces appealed to me. I think a kid could really use her imagination in this one, and there’s plenty of room to run about. Trees grow through the central roofed portion, and flower-like metal “horns” project a visitor’s squawks and other vocalizations into the woods. Bird calls, anyone?


On the ground below, an old fallen tree has been transformed into a long bench with cut-out seats. It reminded me of a Lincoln Log toy.


I’ll end my coverage of Longwood Gardens among the majestic trees of Peirce’s Park. As the garden’s website explains, “During the 1800s, twins Joshua and Samuel Peirce collected many native and exotic trees, which they planted in straight rows on this land east of their farmhouse….Mr. du Pont purchased the Peirce farm and arboretum in 1906 to save the trees from being cut for lumber.” Good for all three tree lovers!

I strolled among the centuries-old trees with a feeling of reverence — and a wary eye for windblown branches, after our previous-day’s adventure at Winterthur.

Longwood is a big garden with something for everyone, and with attractions designed to draw people in droves, like the indoor children’s garden, a beer garden, and a musical fountain show. But quieter moments can be had here too, as I hope today’s post has shown.

Up Next: My return to Chanticleer and its famous Teacup Garden. For a look back at Longwood’s conservatory and indoor children’s garden, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Garden marries home at destination nursery/garden shop Terrain


Anthropologie meets Flora Grubb Gardens? Yes, please! While in the Brandywine Valley outside of Philadelphia earlier this month, I was eager to visit Terrain, a nursery, home and garden shop, and restaurant located in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. (There’s a second location in Westport, Connecticut.)


Founded by the company that owns Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, Terrain is an upscale eden of lush plants, beautiful garden furnishings, and tempting home goods arranged and displayed with the same creativity and attention to detail that makes Anthropologie stores such a delight to shop in.


My traveling companion, Diana/Sharing Nature’s Garden, and I arrived after our visit to Winterthur.


From the moment we walked in, I was wowed by the plant arrangements and displays, with everything layered on stands and tables so you can really see it.


Love these grapevine tuteurs


A smoke tree underplanted with pretty companions


Signs cleverly advertised potted succulents for Father’s Day.


Hanging lights and lanterns are displayed throughout the nursery. I like these metal-strap orb lights.


I think I’ve seen these Moroccan-style metal lanterns at Barton Springs Nursery here in Austin.


Or how about a plant “picture” for your walls?


An even bigger vertical garden fills a shed wall near the parking lot.


Display gardens are set up to tempt you before you even get out of your car.


After oohing and aahing over the entry diplays…


…let’s explore the nursery grounds, which are extensive, with plenty of room for event-space rentals. People even get married here.


Beautiful seating areas are set up throughout the grounds. I can imagine someone coming in and saying, “I’ll take the whole room.”


This casually perfect arrangement evokes a Swedish garden, don’t you think?


Wooden pots filled with creeping Jenny line an outdoor dining table.


Little pots of sunshine


Multiple rustic outbuildings add charm to the display gardens, including this one adorned with old funnels planted with asparagus fern and white lantana. (The painted sign alludes to Styer’s, a popular nursery that formerly occupied the site. When Terrain took over, they kept Styer’s as part of their name for this location.)


Each funnel row is planted with just one type of plant.


Isn’t it fun?


I love it when stores display their Fermob furniture this way, in a rainbow of colors across a wall.


‘Bonfire’ begonia and lantana baskets for summer color


So many plants for sale


Check out these massive fire pits.


Terrain has a potting bar where their stylists pot up cool table displays.


You can also buy the supplies you need to make your own.


“Potting stone” — i.e., colored glass to top off your pots.


And then you step into the garden and home shop, where rustic wooden walls, glowing lights strung across the ceiling, and beautifully merchandised tables and shelves invite you to open your wallet and just hand the whole thing over.


And this is just the entry room! The biggest part of the shop is still to come.


Above the register, a chalkboard sign advertises events at the nursery.


Orchids in glass goblets


A candelabra makes a pretty place to hang jars of sweet peas and baby’s breath.


Succulent platters


Terrariums


Tillandsias too


More “potting stone” in a range of pretty blues, white, and green


There is so much more, but we were hungry, so we popped into the cafe for dinner. Terrain’s Garden Café serves lunch and dinner, farm-to-table style.


Diners were seated in the greenhouse dining space, and you’ll notice it’s all women. I did see one man eventually, when the place had filled up, but clearly Terrain appeals most to women.


Everyone else seemed to know to BYOB, but we didn’t realize that Terrain doesn’t sell alcohol, so we were sadly without wine. Even so, dinner was absolutely delicious, with service that was attentive and knowledgeable.


What a wonderful way to end our first garden-touring day! How I’d love to see Terrain open a store in Austin — or even Dallas or Houston. But perhaps it’s best for my wallet if that doesn’t happen.

Up next: Longwood Gardens’ formal spaces, including the rambler rose pergola and the dancing fountains in the Italian water garden. For a look back at Enchanted Woods, the children’s garden at Winterthur, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Enchanted Woods children’s garden at Winterthur: Not your typical playground


Forget wooden playscapes, jungle gyms, and climbing walls. The most magical children’s gardens consist of natural spaces that invite exploration, slowly reveal secret spaces, and encourage imaginative play. Such is Enchanted Woods, the children’s garden at Winterthur, located in Winterthur, Delaware, which I visited with Diana/Sharing Nature’s Garden last week.


Enchanted Woods is a 3-acre exploratory play space for children and adults, set amid a grove of old oaks where the du Pont children used to play. I entered through standing stones that reminded me of Celtic ruins.


Arranged in wide circles under the trees, standing stones and bench-like architectural relics evoke Stonehenge and are perfect for climbing on or climbing through.


The stone artifacts, according to designer W. Gary Smith, were collected by the estate’s owner, Henry Francis du Pont. They sat in storage for decades before finding a home in the children’s garden when it was constructed in 2001.


Near the stones, a labyrinth spiraling in green grass invited me to make a contemplative stroll.


Concrete pavers etched with phrases from a Navajo “walking song” lead you into the heart of the labyrinth and then back out. As you walk it you read: “In beauty…”


“…may I walk”


“With beauty before me”


“With beauty behind me”


“With beauty above me”


“With beauty all around me…”


“…may I walk.” Isn’t that beautiful?


Other pavers are etched with plant illustrations, like heartsease (wild pansy)…


…and clover.


Nearby, a frog spits water into a small pool…


…and a giant bird’s nest (just like the ones at the Wildflower Center’s Family Garden), complete with carved wooden eggs, makes an intimate play space or hiding place.


The centerpiece of the garden is a stone-walled, thatch-roofed faerie cottage. Tucked among the trees, it has a fairy-tale appearance. (This is where Diana and I took shelter from the windstorm.)


A niche holds a sweet little pot of caladiums.


Inside, a faerie queen and king could live in style, with an acorn-adorned “throw rug” of colored pavers, an oak-tree window, throne-like chairs…


…cozy lighting, and a fireplace.


A green man adorns the wall.


Where the faerie king and queen sit?


Charming architectural details are built into the exterior too, like this curved bench.


A maypole lawn surrounded by swinging benches and spring-flowering trees makes a welcome green glade amid the tall oaks.


Encircled by old columns, a small table and chairs would be the perfect place for a tea party.


Other elements are a little more ambiguous, even eerie? An upturned tree stump seems to scuttle through the garden like Thing in The Addams Family.


Across a stone bridge, a pointy-roofed structure appears. Dubbed the Tulip Tree House, it’s cleverly made from a hollow tulip-poplar trunk.


Doesn’t it look like it could be a witch’s house in a fairy tale?


But less so with Diana’s smiling face looking out.


A circle of chair-sized mushrooms looks like a good place to take a rest.


Uh-oh — it’s a fairy ring. What happens if you step into it? A sign warns you not to, therefore making it irresistible that you will.


Mist suddenly hisses out of the mushrooms, threatening to swallow you up!


Hidden in the middle of tall shrubs, a green man laughs, his smile glinting with recent rain.


You know a garden is truly magical when a chipmunk poses for you, holding still as you creep in for a closeup. I loved Enchanted Woods, and while no children were there during our visit, I did see a grown-up couple exploring it like children (as did we). If you’re ever there sans kids, don’t be shy about playing pretend yourself.

For a look back at my post about Winterthur’s main gardens, click here. Up next: Shopping and dinner at Terrain, a gorgeous nursery/home-and-garden shop and restaurant in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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