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.