Last week I spotlighted a fun way for those of us who live in the southern reaches of Delaware to explore decorating and garden ideas at the 2023 Home Expo at Cape Henlopen High School on April 15th and 16th. It’s also a great destination for a day trip – perhaps with some extra time in historic Lewes – for folks who live closer to Wilmington.
Today I’m thinking about another day trip that can be wonderful experience for everyone who’d like to immerse themselves in more springtime wonders: a visit to Longwood Gardens in beautiful Kennett Square, PA (just barely over the Delaware line).
Locals and newcomers absolutely love this place for its visual wonders and special events that take place year-round. Spring is an especially fine time to stroll through its many attractions before the summer heat sets in. Here are some things to think about as you plan your trip.
In its earliest days the land that makes up the gardens was home to the Lenape tribe of native Americans, who hunted and fished in its dense forests and streams. In the 1700s the area became a vast farm and preserve owned by the Pierce family, who eventually created an arboretum that covered 15 acres and by 1850 held one of the finest collections of trees cultivated by the family alongside native and wild species.
By the 1900s the family was no longer interested in the area, which made it a prime target for a lumber mill owner who planned to cut down all of the trees. That let Pierre S. du Pont to purchase the land and preserve the trees (a deal brokered by Isabel Darlington, Chester County’s first woman lawyer). A few years later he began in earnest to create a gathering place for family and friends that would eventually become one of the nation’s foremost horticultural display gardens. Thanks to foresight and planning, he left an endowment to sustain the gardens before he passed away in 1954.
Visiting Today – Plan Ahead!
Today there are 1,077 acres that make up Longwood Gardens. Included are 20 indoor gardens within heated greenhouses and a Conservatory with 4,600 different types of plants and trees. If you’re among the most avid gardeners you can participate in a tuition free school of horticulture, a horticulture graduate program and internships.
Or you can just visit the place and spend your day amid the scents of blooming flowers and splendid sights, including the Pierce-du Pont House. With original sections dating back to 1730, it’s one of the most elegant and visually stunning homes in the entire region and a wonderful place to tour.
Because there’s so much to see and do, and because the visiting hours vary widely, you should visit the Longwood Gardens Web site and plan ahead.
If you want to go soon, the gardens are closed on Tuesdays and open every other day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Garden Shop is open those same days and times, and you don’t need to pay admission to the gardens to visit.
Plan Lunch or Dinner as Well – And Don’t Forget about Buckley’s Tavern
There are three terrific dining options at Longwood Gardens. For a quick lunch with a limited menu check out The Café, which is open Sunday, Monday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (it’s closed Tuesdays).
There’s also the Beer Garden that’s open on good weather days. The hours are Thursday and Friday from 4 to 9 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s closed from Monday through Wednesday.
Another great lunch spot is the 1906 café, open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Monday (it’s also closed on Tuesdays). Reservations are recommended.
I also want to put in a plug for one of the most amazing and historic restaurants in the area – Buckley’s Tavern – which is only about 10 minutes away from Longwood Gardens. It’s a beautiful Colonial-styled place built from a home dating back to 1817, with a wonderful menu filled with seafood, steaks and chicken dishes and fresh salads. A visit for lunch or dinner is reason enough to take in the Gardens and the lovely town of Centreville and other Brandywine Valley attractions.