A person smiles with arms outspread  on a central walkway surrounded by conservatory plants and a glass roof

“Orchid Extravaganza” at Longwood Gardens

By Martha Stewart, on

Editor's Note: We were honored to have Martha Stewart back in the Gardens last week. Enjoy her blog about her visit, calling our Orchid Extravaganza display a “spectacular presentation of color and artistry.” This blog post originally appeared February 20, 2018, in Martha Up Close & Personal: The Martha Stewart Blog.

I love visiting gardens whenever I can, especially during this time when many conservatories are filled with colorful orchid displays. If you're in or near historic Kennett Square, Pennsylvania from now through March 25th, I encourage you to make a stop at Longwood Gardens to see the annual "Orchid Extravaganza".

While I was at QVC last week, I had the opportunity to visit Longwood's orchid exhibit - it includes more than 4000-orchids creatively displayed throughout its glass houses. Among the show's highlights - nearly 100-Phalaenopsis orchids in various colors from Taiwan, 200 blue Vanda orchids dramatically suspended from the conservatory's ceiling, a graceful 12-foot tall arch covered in more than 600 yellow and white Phalaenopsis blooms, and six giant white Phalaenopsis orbs hanging overhead. It is a spectacular presentation of color and artistry.

Here are some photos - enjoy.

A person smiles with arms outspread  on a central walkway surrounded by conservatory plants and a glass roof
Longwood Gardens is open to visitors year-round and consists of nearly 1,100 acres of gardens, woodlands and meadows. I am standing in the Center Walk, which features six large white Phalaenopsis orbs each measuring five feet in diameter.
This is a closer look at one of the large white Phalaenopsis orbs suspended over a planting of velvet groundsel, Roldana petasitis, green Cymbidium orchids, and orange seemannia, Seemannia sylvatica.
Here is a grouping of velvet groundsel (Roldana petasitis), foliage, and green Cymbidium orchids, underplanted with seemannia (Seemannia sylvatica).
This is an elegant view of the 70-foot-long flooded, sunken Fern Floor flanked by Australian tree-ferns, Cyathea cooperi.
At the back of the Fern Floor is this custom-fabricated orchid curtain featuring 350 Phalaenopsis ‘Kaleidoscope’.
Here is a columnar display highlighting the diversity of orchids. There are about 30 thousand species of orchids in the wild, and more than 100 thousand registered hybrids.
This is a Miltoniopsis hybrid orchid. Miltoniopsis orchids are often referred to as the “pansy orchid” because their blooms are similar in appearance to pansies. Miltoniopsis blooms are large, flat, and round with broad lips. Blooms are seen in an array of bright colors such as yellow, pink, red, purple, and white.
This is × Beallara Tahoma Glacier. This hybrid is very vigorous and easy to maintain. It produces an outstanding flower display. The flower spike can carry up to 15 hand-sized star-shaped flowers.
This is an oriental hybrid lily, Lilium ‘Conca d’Or’. It produces giant flowers with strong stems and large, strong plants. I also grow many trumpet lilies at my farm.
Look at these giant purple Phalaenopsis orbs—each one contains more than 100 orchids. Here they are displayed with Centradenia inaequilateralis ‘Blushing Cascade’.
This is one of the beautiful 19th-century Japanese bronze cranes. It was recently cleaned, restored, and placed on display.
This is called heart-leaf pelargonium, Pelargonium cordifolium. It is accented with ti-plant, Cordyline fruticosa. The background features a sago-palm, Cycas revoluta.
This is a magnificent specimen of Wood’s cycad, Encephalartos woodii. It’s a rare cycad in the genus Encephalartos, and is endemic to a region of South Africa. It is actually one of the rarest plants in the world, being extinct in the wild with all specimens being clones of the type.
It is palm-tree-like, and can reach a height of 20 feet. The trunk is about 12 to 20 inches in diameter, thickest at the bottom, and topped by a crown of 50 to 150 leaves.
This is a view in the East Conservatory featuring an arch of more than 600 white and yellow Phalaenopsis—all the orchids are simply spectacular.
I also spotted this beautiful Camellia blossom—so perfect. Camellias are flowering, shade-loving, small trees or shrubs that are available in a remarkable range of colors, forms, and sizes. Depending on the variety they may bloom in late fall, winter, and early spring. Their blooms come in a range of colors from white or pink to deep red—all against glossy dark green leaves.
Oriental lily, Lilium ‘Scorpio’—it’s among the brightest red oriental lilies ever bred. It produces magnificent bright fire-engine-red flowers with a pretty scent. Its stems are sturdy and the petals have a slight pie crust ruffle on the edges.
This is called oriental lily, Lilium ‘Bodoc’.
Here is a large basket of pseudorhipsalis, Pseudorhipsalis ramulosa. It is a shrubby, epiphytic cactus, freely branching basally with pendant, flat, reddish tapeworm stems up to two and a half feet long that turn deep violet red in high light. It produces lots of greenish-white or pinkish flowers followed by small, ornamental, shell berries lining both edges of the ribbon stems. Some of you may have seen mine in photos—I often hang it on my expansive porch during summer.
Hanging from the glass ceiling of the conservatory are more than 200 blue and purple Vanda orchids. They hang above the Silver Garden pathway at Longwood—so gorgeous.
Longwood also displays 200 to 300 orchids every day from its diverse collection of more than 6,200 plants. I love this giant planter.
Nearby, we saw 100 cascading Taiwanese Phalaenopsis displayed in the Fern Passage—another eye-catching display of orchids.
This bird’s nest fern is Asplenium nidus ‘Fimbriatum’—an epiphytic species of fern in the family Aspleniaceae that is native to tropical southeastern Asia, eastern Australia, Hawaii, Polynesia, India, and eastern Africa.
Here I am holding a large bud of chalice-vine, Solandra maxima. Also known as cup of gold vine, golden chalice vine, or Hawaiian lily, Solandra maxima is a vigorous vine that is endemic to Mexico and Central America. It has very large yellow flowers and glossy leaves.
Here I am standing under the Solandra maxima. This evergreen vine can spread to 40 feet.
Here is a vibrant display in the Mediterranean Garden—it includes amaryllis, Hippeastrum ‘Estella’, spurge, Euphorbia ‘Inneuphdia’ Diamond Frost®, heart-leaf pelargonium, Pelargonium cordifolium ‘Caroline’s Citrine’, ground-ivy sage, Salvia glechomifolia, florist’s cyclamen, Cyclamen persicum, and dusty-miller, Senecio cineraria ‘Cirrus’.
We also saw some Bonsai—this was my favorite from the collection, a loose-flower hornbeam, Carpinus laxiflora.
And here I am joined by Jim Sutton, Senior Horticultural Display Designer, and Olivia Fow, Display Design Intern. They gave us such a lovely tour—thank you, Jim and Olivia.

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