Longwood Gardens is one of those places that you have to go to over and over! This was my fourth visit, all have been in different months, and all have been very different. Longwood Gardens is one of those places you wish you lived next door to!
Some Details from Wikipedia
Longwood Gardens is a botanical garden that consists of over 1,077 acres (436 hectares; 4.36 km²) of gardens, woodlands, and meadows in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, in the Brandywine Creek Valley. It is one of the premier horticultural display gardens in the United States and is open to visitors year-round to enjoy native and exotic plants and horticulture (both indoor and outdoor), events and performances, seasonal and themed attractions, as well as educational lectures, courses, and workshops.
For the long history of Longwood Gardens check out this link: https://longwoodgardens.org/history
Our First Visit
I could not wait to get to one of my favorite places in the US! We had no time on our first day and they were closed on our second day so on our third day in PA we finally were going to Longwood Gardens. We woke up to cold and rain but that would not deter us. In fact, shooting flowers is much better on rainy, overcast days. The colors are not washed out by too much light, there are no dark shadows and water drops always make a better image!
I wanted to check out the outdoor gardens first to get a feel for what was blooming. The tulips were just starting to bud and bloom.
There were a few other spring flowers blooming.
Having seen that there was not too much outside at this point, I headed over to the conservatory. This is a huge glass building that has thousands of plants, flowers, trees and so much more.
Just as I walked into the Conservatory, a docent, seeing that I was loaded down with camera gear, came over to me and told me the Himalayan Blue Poppies were in the Orangerie section. After my search and subsequent finding of one pot of poppies in March 2020, I was hoping to see a lot more this time!
I was not disappointed! There were two gardens on one end of the Orangerie filled with these famous blue beauties.
For those that don’t know, this is a flower that is quite unusual. There are only a couple of botanical gardens that grow them and catching them when they are in bloom is not easy when you live a thousand miles away! Needless to say, I was thrilled for myself and my photographer friends.
I got busy making some images of these gorgeous flowers.
I am always looking for flowers that have some character and a different point of view. This poppy was missing a petal and the side view showed off the bright yellow stamens and pistol.
I found one lone poppy over in the shadows of a large bush. It was much darker than the others. This was my favorite poppy image and a had it printed on metal and it is so gorgeous.
As the number of people started to increase around the poppy gardens (it can get a bit crowded) I decided to move on to the other flowers in the Orangerie.
There were tiny tulips, daffodils, and fragrant freesia planted around the reflecting pool.
The gardens around the Orangerie were full of color and shapes!
From there we walked over to the new Orchid House. As I approached the Orchid House I became very aware of the renovation that we could see going on from the outside. A large portion of the conservatory and greenhouses had been demolished! I was disappointed as some of those areas had been favorites but the plans they have for the future look extraordinary. So I tamped down my disappointment and moved into the new Orchid House.
Orchids are very hard to photograph due to the depth of the flowers. I spent some time trying different f stops to get as much depth as possible. If I was concentrating on orchids only, I would set up a tripod and switch my camera to Focus Stacking to make sure I got the entire flower in focus. But, this day the best I could do was hand-hold with a single exposure.
From the humidity of the Orchid House, we moved to the dry Desert House. Desert plants are some of my favorites for their shapes and contrasts. They even look better in Black & White!
From there we circled back into the Orangerie to see even more beautiful flowers.
On the walkway across the center of the Orangerie, I found another of my favorite flowers, Anemones. They had planted only purple anemones but they do come in other colors.
I just had to pull out my iPhone and make some Multiple Exposure images.
It was getting close to the time I had made reservations at one of their restaurants so I gathered up my friends and headed across the bridge to the restaurant building. The Cafe is an upscale cafeteria-type eatery but we were eating at the sit-down restaurant 1906 Fine Dining Room. The menu at 1906 was a bit different as it was based on the Past, Present, and Future of Longwood Gardens. They are famous for their Mushroom Soup from the past so we had to have some of that! It is yummy! I picked a beet salad from the future that was very colorful and tasty.
The rolls are baked in clay plant pots.
I had to get dessert! It was totally edible!
After lunch, we walked outside and out past the fountain garden to the meadow at the front of the gardens. There we found fields of daffodils and cherry trees in bloom!
The cherry blossoms just did not pop against the overcast skies. This was the only point where we were not happy about the weather conditions.
Our Second Visit
Note: If I had been by myself I would have been back at Longwood every day but since my two photographer friends were not huge flower fans we made a few side trips to satisfy their photo needs. (See those locations in the next posts). Two days later, we awoke to a bright and sunny day, so we decided to make a second trip to Longwood Gardens. This time there were more flowers blooming outside but the light was just too harsh in most locations in the gardens.
We decided to walk over to the meadow with all the cherry trees before the weather changed and what a difference a blue sky makes!
Once we had our fill of the cherry blossoms and blue skies we wanted to hit some of the areas we did not see on our first visit. I just had to stop back in the Conservatory for one more dose of Himalayan Blue Poppies!
The light was much brighter in the Conservatory this time but in most places, it was not too contrasty or too bright.
There are even some great places for images in the Children’s Garden in the Conservatory.
We also checked out the Organ Room. Their organ is huge.
One of several rooms that contain the pipes that all those keys, levers, and stops play!
We had pretty much seen all that was in the Conservatory so we headed back outside to the Idea Garden. It was a bit early in the season for all the flowers that I have seen in this section on previous visits. But there were some that we could shoot.
The last stop was the Fountain Garden. During the summer they have amazing fountain shows during the day and fountain, lights, fire, and music shows at night. But this day there was not much going on so I went with the start contrasty look.
If you walk all the way down to the fountain pump house, there is an opening that takes you inside. There is a beautiful reversed fountain that I always like to shoot!
I made one last shot to celebrate the blue skies!
We walked back through the Visitor Center where I picked up a new Longwood Gardens coffee cup and a new t-shirt!
One last tip, you may have noticed that I was switching cameras very frequently. I carried both my Nikon D850 with the 105mm Macro lens and my Nikon Z7 with the Nikon Z 14 -24mm lens (this lens makes a surprisingly great flower lens). I carried both cameras on my Black Rapid Dual Camera Strap. This harness keeps me from getting strangled by a neck strap and the cameras balance each other out, putting less strain on my shoulders. Also, I can go hands-free so I don’t have to hold a camera all the time. Another advantage is I can bring up either camera quickly and then lower that one and bring up the other one. The only issue is when kneeling the cameras can end up on the ground so be careful.
If you are a flower photographer you must visit Longwood Gardens at some point but I highly recommend visiting multiple times at different seasons and when visiting, visit multiple times as there is so much to see and they change things up pretty frequently. Also, something that is not blooming today could very well be blooming a couple of days later. Also, don’t miss a visit because it is raining! That is the best time to visit!
Click on any image to see a larger version OR visit my gallery to see and purchase prints and other items with these and many additional images: Longwood Gardens
My next blog post will be on our visit to a very different and dark place to photograph.
That is all for now.