An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

March 12, 2014

Longwood Gardens' Orchid Extravaganza

"Nothing succeeds like excess." - Oscar Wilde (and the Lady Violet)

     Before heading to the Philadelphia Flower Show I found myself in a dark place. I was travelling the length of Delaware while listening to moody prog rock from the 70's, fighting a week-long cold, and watching the bleak winter landscape roll past. Until you near Wilmington, most of Delaware is fairly flat with the most notable landmarks being Dover Downs Speedway, the refinery complex in Delaware City, and the massive cooling tower of Hope Creek nuclear power station looming from the Jersey side of the Delaware River. It got me to thinking how precious few pieces of land remain in this country that have never once been either felled, farmed, mined, burnt, logged, scraped, paved, graded or drained. I'm not picking on Delaware or saying these conditions are unique to the state, indeed I am sure it is true for the country as whole and much of the world beyond. But Delaware is small, and it easy to see how every acre seems to have a designated purpose and is managed in some way or another, even those areas designated as natural.

     So what does this have to do with an orchid show? Well, probably very little - but as soon as I opened those conservatory doors my spirits brightened, and that dark cloud was replaced by the sights and smells of one of the most well executed, spectacular, and over-the-top horticultural displays I have ever seen. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Main Conservatory (1)

Main Conservatory (5)

Hanging Orchid Balls (Exhibition Hall)

Main Conservatory (6)

Main Conservatory

Veltheimia bracteata (yellow form) (2)

Veltheimia bracteata (yellow form) (1)

East Conservatory with Bismarckia, Plectranthus, Orchids and Hydrangea (2)

East Conservatory with Bismarckia, Plectranthus, Orchids and Hydrangea (4)

East Conservatory (Woodland Orchid Display) (1)

Cymbidium Edith McDade 'New Horizon' (2)

Phalaenopsis 'Fuller's Sunset'

x Sophrolaeliocattleya 'Orglade's Early Harvest'

Schomburgkia undulata (1)

Phalaenopsis Beauty Shenna 'Rin Rin'

Antirrhinum majus 'Potmac Appleblossom' (1)

Kalanchoe (maybe) (2)

Veltheimia bracteata (pink form) (2)

Estate Fruit House (Espaliered Nectarines) (2)

Aloe with Snowbank

East Conservatory (Woodland Orchid Display) (5)

Paphiopedilum (1)

Miltonia Orchid


       These are but a few of the pictures I took at Longwood, and if you want to see more, you can click here for my Flickr set. For those you who need names, I included them in the title if I knew them.

(Not to sound like a broken record, but there is still time to enter my Winter Walk-Off meme. Come on, you know you want to.)


  1. Ahh, wonderful. I almost feel like I went there myself. Sometimes the best memories are the ones you invent. But I have been to Longwood and it is always worth a visit.

    1. John, part of me wondered if there would be enough to see to justify the price of admission. After 10 seconds through the door, it was no longer a concern.

  2. What an amazing place! A spirit lifter if I ever saw one.
    I had to check the rest of your pictures on Flicker: pure joy. A little envious of the conservatory cat.

    1. Chavliness, that day was the first time I every thought I would want to be a cat.

  3. I can certainly see why your spirits would be lifted. All of this color and sensuous surroundings is enough to brighten the dreariest day!

    1. Tina, it was indeed a great day, and I think the low 20's outside made it that much better.

  4. That's some serious plant porn there, Les! The exuberance of the display and your gorgeous images of it brightened my day too!

  5. I have only recently discovered "The Tidewater Gardener" blog and have viewed several of your posts. Your blog is so user friendly and easy to navigate. So far, Longwood Gardens with the Amish children at the water lily pond is my favorite photo.. All of your pictures are wonderful. Please share your camera name and model. I didn't know what to comment as so I chose anonymous since I am not familiar with the others.

    1. Anonymous, thank you for taking the time to comment and for your compliments. My camera is a Nikon D5000.

  6. Oh Les, the high today was minus 2 C and it's gonna get colder next week. You want to compare "dark" places ? lol I WANT SPRING ! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

    Your photos are wonderful and for one fleeting moment I was there with you. Bet it smelled awesome !

    1. Sybil, I know weather is all relative, and if I had relatives in Aruba, that is where I would be right now.

  7. Stunning displays (and photos)! Thanks for including the names with your Flicker set. This reminds me of some incredible orchids on display at the New Orleans Botanical Garden. Thanks for sharing--you brightened my day.

    1. Plant Postings, glad I could brighten your day. I was actually surprised at how many orchids went unlabeled or difficult to see, though not know the name did not distract from their beauty.

  8. First to your opening thoughts: I think there are quite a number of areas in Canada that are untouched and unspoiled. And I would love to tell you that is because we value nature and wish to protect untouched forests etc. The reality is that most of the untouched land is inhospitable or lacks natural resources. I wish we all valued unspoiled land just a bit more.
    Your conservatory pictures were all wonderful. I love the torch lily portrait because it really made me look at the structure of the flower. I also like the picture of the two lilies looking out at the snow. It made me chuckle. The lady slippers are amazing! There is a mail order place in British Columbia that sells them, but boy are they expensive. They are also supposedly hard to grow, so I would hate to take and chance and experiment.
    I will see if I can get my walk-off done on Sunday.
    Hope you are feeling better!

    1. Jennifer, down where I live, outside the cities we do have a lot of what appears to be natural areas, but at some point in their history I am sure they have been disturbed. Most of Virginia was cleared of its forests by the mid-1880's for agriculture, especially for growing tobacco, but in the past century much of the forest has returned letting the land recover. I do hope you will have time to take a walk with your camera.

  9. Hey Les,
    WOW did you make my day. Not only with your beautiful imagery but taking me back to a winter visit I had at Longwood nearly twenty years ago. Didn't see such flower power but none the less inspiring to my winter weary soul. My favorite feature was what they called the Acacia Tunnel which a shrub covered in about 3mm gold balls from my native Australia pruned to create a tunnel. Now I'm a quadriplegic, there will not be any more of these types of business junkets, so this recollection was extra special. Thanks for making my day, Les.