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.

January 30, 2016

The Meadow Garden at Longwood

     I became fond of meadows at an early age. Growing up in the Piedmont of Virginia on the outskirts of Richmond, our then relatively new neighborhood was surrounded by several meadows that made for great play and exploration. Only a few years earlier they were likely to have been cow pastures. I also have a fond memory of dove hunting with my father on a late fall morning in a wild meadow. I was more interested in the swaying grasses, odd seed pods, and the burs and patches sticking to my pants than I was in shooting doves. Along the coast here in Tidewater, meadows are very temporary situations - clear a patch of ground, turn your back, and a forest of loblolly pines has taken root. With this nearly innate fondness, I really enjoyed my October visit with two of my co-workers to Longwood Gardens' Meadow Garden.

     Either by design or circumstance, one of the main entrances to the Meadow Garden takes you past Longwood's Italian Water Garden, creating quite the contrast in gardening styles. Personally, I think classic Italian Gardens are best left in Italy.

     The entrance takes you through a wooded area, and on the day we visited the maples were showing color and casting shadows. One of several beautifully designed bridges leads you over a lake and to an equally beautiful pavilion where volunteers orient visitors and answer questions. I wish I had taken photos of these structures, but I was distracted by other things.
Meadow Garden - Entrance (2)

Meadow Garden - Hourglass Lake (1)

Meadow Garden (24)

Meadow Garden (15)

Meadow Garden (31)

Meadow Garden - Meadow Garden - Prunus serotina maybe

Meadow Garden - Liriodendron tulipifera (1)

Meadow Garden- with Cornus florida in background (2)

     To augment what was already here, Longwood added masses of additional plants from 100 species that are both appropriate to the site, and appropriate to the Brandywine Valley - all planted and managed using current best ecological practices. To experience the Meadow Garden there are trails and boardwalks throughout its 86 acres that lead visitors through the surrounding wood edges, over wetlands, and through the meadow itself. A few of the trails, and vistas, lead to the Webb Farmhouse, built in the 1700's, and revealing another, cultural, layer of the garden. I asked one of the farmhouse volunteers what her her favorite season was in the garden. She said late summer when many of the flowers were at their peak. With the sun, the colors, and all the birdsong, I told her I couldn't imagine it being any nicer than it was that day.
Meadow Garden- with Cornus florida in background (1)

Meadow Garden (10)

Meadow Garden - Webb Farmhouse

Meadow Garden - Webb Farmhouse.

Meadow Garden (25)

Meadow Garden - Green Roof

     Even though we knew that it took an incredible amount of work to make it look so, the garden felt incredibly natural and very easy on the land. We left hoping we had just seen the future of horticulture.

27 comments:

  1. Thanks for a beautiful post. I'm looking forward to visiting this meadow. particularly loved your picture with the sky full of leaves.

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    1. Thank you, Marilyn. While you are relatively close you should go. It might be a good 6-7 hours for you, unless you find someplace interesting to stop.

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  2. I love the natural wildness of this meadow garden. That reflection on water with floating leaves tricked my eye like a Magritte painting. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. You are welcome Sarah. I am constantly looking in puddles and reflections to see what images might be there.

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  3. This was a delightful post. I'm finding it hard to come up with the words to give it a proper comment. A very atmospheric piece, with lovely images and an interesting background story. I'd love to see that meadow someday. As you say, it seems very natural, yet well-managed. You mention that you feel you didn't take enough photos this day, but the ones you captured are exquisite.

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    1. Beth it was one of those days I had to decide whether I wanted to experience the garden, or spend the day with my eyes stuck behind a lens.

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  4. I visited last fall when solidago's seemed to be 90% of the vegetation. I'm sure it wasn't, but it did look like that, and I was wondering how the meadow will be managed to maintain diversity. I don't see that in your photos, so I need to go back. I look forward to visiting, I hope several times, in 2016.

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    1. I want to go back too James, perhaps when the meadow itself offered more color. Looking down at the ground it was easy to see evidence of recently planted plugs.

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  5. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful place, makes me almost want to endure the plane ride to visit from downunder.

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    1. David, I'll trade you a plane ride so I can see some of the wonderful things growing in your part of the world. I am sure I would feel like I had the best end of the deal.

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  6. You got some really fantastic photos, excellent post! Glad that you liked this garden as much as I did.

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    1. Thanks, Jason! I did have a good time.

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  7. Beautiful pictures. The scene reminds me a little of the scenes in the shots they showed at the beginning of Little House on the Prairie, except better. lol I especially liked the one looking up through the golden leaves. The second one - are those leaves floating through the air or on water?

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    1. Sweetbay, those leaves were floating on the water, but I like to flip reflections upside down to see how it changes things.

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  8. Really stunning photos, Les. I love the views with the house in the distance and the one that causes a double take -- is it a reflection in water (I think it is) or leaves sailing through the air.

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    1. Sarah, the house is very befitting the meadow. You can easily imagine it being 200 years ago.

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  9. This is interesting to me that this is a "meadow," as I would call it a prairie of some type. Meadows around here tend to be more like the ones in England with long grass and spring bulbs planted under apple and other fruit trees. There was quite the brouhaha up here a few years ago when the legislature wanted to OK hunting mourning doves. I guess we were just late to the party.

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    1. Linda, I think there is little difference between a prairie and a meadow, but if I had to venture I'd say prairies are much larger, and are something you don't see east of the Appalachians. As to the doves, like everything else that was hunted in my family, it ended up on the dinner table.

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  10. Gorgeous! The third image is positively magical! Meadows are special and those of us lucky enough to have played in them as children will always love the sights and fragrances associated with them. This is a great area of Longwood that I'd not seen before.

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    1. We used to play hide and seek in a meadow close to the house. In early fall when the grasses were at their tallest, all you had to do was to lay down to be invisible.

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  11. It has been far too long since I've been to Longwood--over 20 years I think. Time to go back for another visit!

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    1. As close as you are, it is time to go back.

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  12. You've convinced me: a return visit to Longwood to see this new section is a definite must. Not that I need much convincing to go to Longwood... A personal question, Les. Although I've now lived in Quebec for many years, I also grew up in Richmond, in Ginter Park and then in the far west end, but probably earlier than you did. Where were the meadows you wrote about at the first of this post?

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    1. Hello Pat, thanks for commenting. I grew up in a neighborhood called West End Manor. We moved there in the early 60's while many of the houses were still being built. At the time, it was the furthest suburban development in western Henrico. It was bounded by West Broad St. and Hungry Rd. and on each of those roads were many old farms, were cows pastures had turned back into meadows. Now there are homes and strip malls on top of them. It was a very long time ago.

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  14. I visited the meadow on my trip to Lomgwood a few years back. I don't believe it was completely filled in yet. Looks like it filled in nicely.

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  15. A visit to Longwood is on the schedule for this year and I can hardly wait to see the meadow! I love naturalistic plantings. I recently read that more formal gardens were making a comeback and but I hope not!

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