“Where do all those plants come from?” While many guests ask this question, few are ever prepared for the answer—right here!
It’s a little known fact that 75 percent of the plants used in our displays are raised on site. This means that each year we produce upward of 110,000 plants that represent more than 1,000 different varieties.
The production process at Longwood is driven largely by our Display team, which decides what plants will be used, where they will be located, what size and color they should be, and when they will be needed. This “vision” dictates our crop schedule and helps us determine our ability to fulfill the request. Due to space limitations, we rely upon reputable outside growers to supply 25 percent of our needs. All of our growers adhere to strict specifications and timelines.
We also use a number of different techniques for propagation of plants, which includes germinating seeds, rooting cuttings, grafting and micro-propagation or tissue culture.
In addition to conducting research and plant trials, we also provide diagnostic services to the entire gardens for soil analysis and plant virus testing. Research staff share plants and research information nationally and internationally through distributions, publications, presentations, and workshops.
As one might imagine, there are a number of challenges that come with growing plants for a world-renowned display garden. At Longwood, these obstacles go beyond pestilence and drought, however.
One of our main challenges is providing more than 1,000 different plant species with the ideal growing environment. Due to our limited production space, we must blend and rotate plants in a way that works best for all of them. The result is a rigorous schedule with little down time and zero margin for error.
Another fact to be taken into consideration is the time of year at which many of our plants are grown. At Longwood, we like to provide guests with an exciting and unique experience. Sometimes this means that we display plants such as poppies or columbine in the fall instead of spring or summer. This can make it difficult to contract with outside growers and necessitates that we plan well in advance to meet display deadlines.