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Native Orchid Conservation at Longwood Gardens

May 10, 2016
When you think of endangered species and conservation programs, you may think of our nation's zoos and aquariums and their work with wildlife preservation. Native flora may not come immediately to mind, but in Pennsylvania alone, the US Department of Agriculture lists more than 600 plants as endangered or threatened. Pennsylvania is home to nearly 60 species of native orchids. Some are among the showiest and most charismatic members of our native flora, but most are rare and threatened in the wild. Climate change, invasive species, habitat loss, and a booming white-tailed deer population have decimated many orchid populations in Southeastern Pennsylvania and across the region. To combat these issues, and to provide critical information about the propagation and growth of native orchids in cultivation, our Research Team at Longwood Gardens is developing a conservation program.

Making Our Blooms Count

May 2, 2016
Phenology is the scientific study of nature’s seasonal events—when cherry trees bloom and when birds choose to nest, for example. Studying phenology is a great way of getting outside and observing nature. Longwood Gardens has been observing and collecting the phenological data of when plants boom in our Gardens for many years. The data collected helps predict when plants will bloom each year, when to collect pollen for breeding programs, when to photograph flowers, or to let guests know the best time to visit to see a specific bloom. We are lucky to have a team of 15 trained observers who are dedicated to this important task.

Peirce’s Woods in Bloom

April 25, 2016
I love this time of year in Peirce’s Woods, even though it feels like a non-stop race to pull all the weeds before they go to seed. The beauty of the woods in bloom makes me forget all that. Suddenly all the flowers in Peirce’s Woods have opened all at once. Peirce’s Woods is an art form garden, composed with native plants. The central design theme is large horizontal sweeps of groundcovers balancing the strong vertical lines of the mature tree trunks. Most of our native woodland flowers take advantage of the brief period in early spring before the trees fully leaf out to grow, flower and set seed. The two main groundcovers currently stealing the show are sweeps of white foamflowers (Tiarella) and ‘Sherwood Purple’ creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera).
Built in 1931 by Pierre S. du Pont, the Main Fountain Garden was inspired by Pierre’s passion for engineering and design, and his travels to European gardens. After years of deteriorating stonework, many fountain features were turned off—leading to limited access to the Garden since the early ‘90s. In order to save this treasure, we embarked on a major restoration project. This spring will mark the halfway point of the two-year revitalization. In this post, we will go below the surface of the Main Fountain Garden and explore some of the engineering behind the beauty.

Fire in the Meadow: A Beneficial Burn

April 8, 2016
This spring we have been feeling the heat in the Meadow Garden! This 86-acre space at Longwood combines horticulture and ecology to create an environmentally sensitive landscape. Although this area of rich biodiversity may seem wild and maintenance free, meadows actually require regular attention. A typical meadow like the one here at Longwood requires regular scouting for invasive plants, the removal of woody plants, and a yearly mowing or burning. Historically, meadows in the eastern U.S. burned naturally as a result of lightning storms, or by Native Americans, who used fire to maintain plant communities and manage game animal populations. At Longwood, we have been practicing prescribed burns since the mid-1980s, with specific areas being burned on a rotational basis. This year a prescribed burn of our Meadow Garden was carried out on April 6.

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