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Passport to the World

By Karl Gercens, on March 1, 2010
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I love the theme of the 2010 Philadelphia Flower Show—Passport to the World (through March 7). This year's show features gardens themed to some of the world's richest horticultural locations, including South Africa, Brazil and the Netherlands!

More than 60 professional organizations have been grooming their best plants and planning the most innovative designs to fill the Convention Center with treasures from around the world for the 8 day show. Here at Longwood Gardens, we're proud to be a part of the show by featuring some of the most exotic plants that we have collected and cultivated over the years. You'll see our plants immediately upon entry to the Flower Show, in The Explorer's Garden, which is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Victoria 'Longwood Hybrid' in summer. Victoria 'Longwood Hybrid' in summer.

A 28' tall hot-air balloon floats magically overhead while underneath you'll marvel at Longwood's incredible water-platters (Victoria 'Longwood Hybrid'), which have pads that are between 3-4' across! We also have some of our most prized South African native plants on display, including the winter red-hot poker (Veltheimia) and Chasmanthe bicolor. From the Portuguese island of Madeira, Longwood collected parent seed for our hybrid blue cineraria (Pericallis x hybrida). From the Canary Islands off the coast of northwest Africa comes Echium wildpretii with its dramatic towering spires of pink. From the same family of islands hails sweet broom (Cytissus x spachianus) with its elegant arching stems of electric yellow. Lastly, be on the lookout for the elusive Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis), as they might decide to flower this week as well!

Longwood Gardens, with our 4-acre conservatory complex is only 30 miles from the Philadelphia Flower Show and offers a world of garden adventure each day of the year! I invite you to come and explore our gardens that feature designs from around the globe. Let's look at a few inspirational plants and spaces that are in full bloom right now.

Burle-Marx's Cascade Garden. Photo by Larry Albee. Burle-Marx's Cascade Garden. Photo by Larry Albee.

bromeliads and philodendrons, many of which are native to Burle Marx's home country. Look up to the walls and see that they, too, are draped with exotic foliage in many textures and colors. The sound of water fills the air as brimful waterfalls cascade to clear pools below.

Mimulus 'Valentine' in the Mediterranean Garden. Photo by Karl Gercens. Mimulus 'Valentine' in the Mediterranean Garden. Photo by Karl Gercens.

Nearby, the Mediterranean Garden showcases many plants that are native to South Africa, including Aloe capitata, Euryops pectinatus, Chasmanthe var. duckitii and Clivia miniata, which blossom each winter with heads of bright yellow flowers. Filled with sweet nectar, the pink form of winter red-hot poker (Veltheimia) forms a soothing sweep underneath graceful pepper trees (Schinus) as vibrant purple Cyclamen and golden Tulip batalinii (both natives of Persia) mix sweetly near the pathway. The Mediterranean Garden was designed by a California garden designer and features the beautiful California native flower, Mimulus 'Valentine' ,which flanks the central bench.

Hippeastrum 'Lemon Lime' in the Mediterranean Garden. Photo by Kat McCullough. Hippeastrum 'Lemon Lime' in the Mediterranean Garden. Photo by Kat McCullough.

Longwood's relationship with the foremost bulb growers in The Netherlands brings us some of the best cultivars of lilies, tulips, narcissus and amaryllis available.  You'll find one of the newest plants in the Orangery--Lillium ' Florian'.  The sweetly fragrant blossoms are the most delicate pink infused with white.  The stately petals stretch almost 10" across and the strong stems reach almost 3' in height!  Narcissus 'Constantinople' is a tazetta-type narcissus that is commonly known as the paperwhite.  This cultivar boasts strongly ruffled petals and an intoxicatingly sweet scent that is hard to describe!  This type of narcissus is not reliably hardy in zone 6, but gardeners in warmer zones 7 and 8 would be wise to try this cultivar in your garden.  Equally suited to warmer zones is Hippeastrum 'Lemon Lime'.  This has to be my favorite bulb in the Conservatory now! The elegant floral display atop each lengthy stem is a sophisticated shade of chartreuse.  It complements warmer colors nicely and will have a blush of pink in very cool weather. Look for it in the Mediterranean Garden meadow this week. Longwood Gardens has combed the world for some of the most exciting plants to share with you on a daily basis.  I invite you to join us and travel the globe as you stroll through our Conservatory!

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