Created by Pierre du Pont, the Wilmington mogul of the earlier 20th century, Longwood Gardens take your senses by storm. More than a thousand acres in rolling Pennsylvanian countryside have been transformed into an exotic botanical paradise. History really does not matter here. That’s not its intention. Instead, the sheer glory of a created garden with one of the world’s largest conservatories is the simple attraction. But it’s not so simple.
The ticket office is buried in a berm that closes off the grounds from the car park. Once out into the park, it is the Italian sense of the renaissance that assaults one’s senses. Standing on the terrace in front of the conservatory, fountains perform a balletic dance, gushing jets of water in myriad directions and drawing the eye this way and that.
The conservatory must be a kilometre long. Nurtured within it is a children’s garden with nooks and cranny resonant of Bomarzo’s monster and Hogwarts's mysteries. Then there are flowers arrayed like architectural pieces, ever-changing apparently, as the year proceeds, with blazing orchids gracing the glum winter months.
The creative imagination is simply staggering, and that is the essence of the place. From a miniature version of the Doria Pamphili Park, to tree houses, to beds being prepared with thousands of bulbs for an April radiant with tulips, this place coaxes serenity and a sense of place. Being Halloween time, though, the little garden given over to pumpkins was unmissable.
This is an America that has been curated over generations, that harbours a huge regard for the European tradition, yet has led the way in our century into making plants and their colour along with waterworks truly special. For once I felt I needed no history, only an open mind and the time to wander….