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A Valentine from Longwood

February 14, 2009


Peirce's Woods Love Temple in Four Seasons. Donated to Longwood in 1967

One hot summer day a knight in full armor stands in the Lower Reception Suite of Longwood's Conservatory. He is awaiting the right moment to declare his love and propose marriage to the lady of his heart behind the Main Fountain Garden...

I love being a part of a place special enough to inspire people to make such heartfelt declarations. I certainly fell head-over-heels for Longwood with its ever changing seasons, big trees and wonderful people. I guess it’s fitting that my first day as a gardener at Longwood was Valentine’s Day, an anniversary with the job I love.

On Valentine’s Day I think about the many romantic settings here. My favorite place is the Love Temple at the edge of the lake in Peirce’s Woods. There is a second Love Temple, near the Main Fountain Garden, which is breathtaking when the Blue Mist Spirea are in full bloom.

Caryopteris Allee Love Temple, purchased by Longwood in 1960

Everyone has their own special place, Shakespeare’s Plaza, a quiet corner in the Topiary Garden or under the Wisteria pergola. Co-workers of mine have proposed to their future spouses in the Heath and Heather Garden, at the Eye of Water and by one of the historic Cypress trees.  During the warmer months, it is not uncommon to see a bride and groom strolling the grounds together.

I can imagine Longwood’s founder Mr. Pierre S. duPont and his wife Mrs. Alice B. duPont strolling arm in arm in a similar fashion around the gardens. Longwood’s leading man and leading lady had a romance where horticulture intertwined with their love for one another. It was in the gardens of Gibraltar,  home of his sister Isabella du Pont Sharp, that  Pierre proposed to Alice.

Mr. Pierre S. and Mrs. Alice B. duPont, on their wedding day October 15th 1915Their mutual love for each other and for horticulture was demonstrated during the 1920's when Alice, after receiving a pearl necklace from Pierre on her birthday, for a second year in a row, proclaimed that she would prefer a string of trees be planted instead. Pierre happily complied with this request, planting a 10-mile string of Oak Sycamore and Elm trees along the newly built Kennett Pike (Route 52), connecting Longwood with Wilmington. Alice referred to these trees at "My pearls." Today some of Alice's "pearls" can still be found along Kennett Pike.

Special thanks to Longwood’s Archivist Sandy, and Longwood Fellow and Historian Colvin for their help with this post.