Typically the Meadow at Longwood Gardens is in full blossoming glory in late summer. Did you know that Longwood Gardens has more than one meadow? It’s not surprising, seeing as our Gardens encompass more than 1,000 acres in beautiful Chester County, PA. Perhaps the smallest meadow (so small it’s not even on the guidemap!) is in the Mediterranean Garden within the Conservatory complex. As part of the original design, this tiny meadow is bursting at the seams with an array of “wildflowers” in early spring.
The look of a field of flowers doesn’t come as easily as just spreading seeds and watering them in! Careful planning and observation throughout the year is required to give the Mediterranean Garden’s meadow the feel you enjoy today. All of the plants you see in this mini-meadow are ones that would thrive in a traditional garden located in one of the five Mediterranean regions of the world. Beautiful red Pelargonium, yellow Euryops, purple Limonium and orange Osteospermum cover the ground with their cheery blossoms.
Of special note are the tawny spires of Isoplexis canariensis. From the name you can guess where it’s from (the Canary Islands), but you’d never know the challenges this plant presents to the gardeners in the greenhouses. In its native habitat there are cool and drying winds from the ocean that keep the plant strong. In the Conservatory there is no wind, and in summer “cool” is a word we don’t recognize! We keep the plant partly shaded, and for best success it’s kept near an evaporative cooling pad to help with the high heat and humidity.
Ostoeospermum is another plant that enjoys cool temperatures. The two cultivars we’re displaying now are ‘Orange Symphony’ & ‘Lemon Symphony’. You’ll find these for sale at many nurseries and garden centers in the spring–including Longwood’s Gardens Shop in the Visitor Center. Oftentimes gardeners will plant these showy daisies in early May only to find they slow or stop flowering in the heat of summer. This is normal for our area–especially if it’s a really hot summer. Keep the plants alive through the heat with regular watering. Once it cools off again in autumn, the plants will resume flowering!
Lastly you’ll want to see the Ornithogallum we’re showcasing near the entrance and exit of the Mediterranean Garden. The orange flower is Ornathogalum dubium and the white is a hybrid. Each of these non-hardy bulbs is a native to South Africa, and their long lasting flowers perch well above the rosette of succulent green foliage. These plants will go dormant in the summer, so if you do find a few for sale in your local garden center, be sure to let the bulbs go perfectly dry from May through October. Once the weather cools down you may resume watering and will quickly see green shoots emerge from the bare earth.
We’re always looking for new plants to try in the Mediterranean meadow, and some are only there for a short while. The best way for you to enjoy them is to stop in on a regular basis to see what we’re planting! Enjoy springtime at Longwood Gardens… there’s no better place to see a whole world of flowers in one place!