The Longwood Gardens of today bears little resemblance to the farm that Pierre du Pont purchased in 1906. With a yearly budget of nearly $50 million and a staff of 1,300 employees, students, and volunteers, Longwood is continuously evolving to meet the demands and tastes of the next century. To accomplish this, Longwood has embarked on a Visionary Master Plan, ultimately to become one of the world's greatest gardens.
Perhaps nothing quite embodies the history of the land and the promise of the future as Longwood's Meadow Garden, which opened to the public in June 2014. This new garden uses principles of ecological landscape design and locally sustainable practices to help "preserve the open spaces, valleys, and woodlands surrounding the formal Gardens." Visitors to the eighteenth-century Webb Farmhouse can explore the story of the land and those who once lived there, as well as the seasonal ecology of the Meadow as it exists today. The story of land stewardship continues to unfold into the future, as Longwood's staff, students, and volunteers not only guide and preserve the Meadow environment, but also share with guests this garden's message of biodiversity, interconnected communities, and the sustainability of resources.
The outdoor East Conservatory Plaza, which opened in 2010, is a crisp, bold landform of curved turf steps. In 2011, Longwood turned to “green” energy, purchasing power only from hydro-electric sources and, most importantly, from an onsite, 10-acre solar field with 6,682 solar panels that generate enough electricity to reduce mid-day demand on the energy grid by more than 50 percent.
Three “tree houses” opened to the delight of guests young and old. Facility maintenance continued unabated. Education and performing arts programs continue to expand. And gardens continue to evolve.
The public has embraced Longwood Gardens with great enthusiasm. Its early heritage is rich, and its modern-day additions exemplify the finest in contemporary horticulture. Yet most of its public appeal is due to Pierre du Pont's innate sense of the garden as theatre, and that ties Longwood directly to the great gardens of Italy and France, and to the spectacular world's fairs that proclaimed the triumph of technology.
Exquisite flowers, majestic trees, dazzling fountains, extravagant conservatory, starlit theatre, thunderous organ – all embody the magic of Longwood Gardens, a horticultural showstopper where the gardening arts are encased in classic forms and enhanced by modern technology.