tree with signage for the discovery trail

Follow Our Discovery Trail

By Katie Mobley, on

New this summer and designed for guests of all ages, our 10-stop Discovery Trail adventure helps you engage your senses and learn more about the beauty of our Gardens … while having fun along the way! Embark on our Discovery Trail and discover hidden secrets in the Main Fountain Garden, identify trees in Peirce’s Woods, search for wildlife in our Meadow Garden, and even take a meditative moment with garden-inspired yoga poses. Perfect for families to long-time Members, the Discovery Trail is accessed via our mobile map and through in-garden signs, each containing a QR code to scan and join in the fun! Read on for a preview of our Discovery Trail stops, which can be experienced in any order while exploring our Gardens, and come to see the Gardens in a new way.

At our first Discovery Trail location, let your senses stroll along Flower Garden Walk’s tapestry of textures, colors, and height. Take one of our most dynamic seasonal gardens and add in changing weather and light conditions, visiting pollinators, and an ever-changing vista, and you have a full sensory experience just waiting to be discovered. As you stroll down the walk, notice how the plantings around you are enhanced by the visit of a butterfly, the sweet sounds of birdsong, and other surprises of the natural world. Keep your eye out for patterns in our planting design from the contrasts of bold and fine foliage to the use of small and large flowers, and then take a moment to tell a secret at the Whispering Bench.

Our first Discovery Trail location at Flower Garden Walk welcomes you to explore this iconic space’s varied colors, textures, and other design elements. Photo by Carol DeGuiseppi.

Next, spot the leaf shapes that define the canopy of our quiet, shaded 7-acre Peirce’s Woods area. Home to the tallest known dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) in the world (standing at 136 feet tall!), this former sugar maple orchard is a fantastic place to see a breadth of native trees and their very different leaves. Be one with nature in the sprawling, park-like landscape near our Large and Small Lakes, a favorite location for those seeking wide-open vistas when visiting our Gardens. You’ll find plenty of space to try a mountain, falling leaf, tree, and other garden-inspired yoga poses. While chances are good you’ve spent time gazing out over our Italian Water Garden, you may have never taken a close look at how symmetry plays such an important role in this garden. Use your eye for design and look carefully at how harmony and balance thrive in this formal space … and learn just how founder Pierre S. du Pont used the concept of foreshortening to achieve his desired look in the garden.

Explore harmony and balance at the Italian Water Garden. Photo by Carol DeGuiseppi.

Head to the Meadow Garden to continue your close look at the element of water and discover what’s hiding in Hourglass Lake. Learn some of many species that call this ecosystem home, and get an up-close look at the bronze sculptures perched along the bridge handrail.

A number of bronze sculptures await discovery along the Hourglass Lake handrail. Photo by Carol DeGuiseppi.

Also in the Meadow Garden, hear the ballad of the bluebird via a recording of the bluebird’s song on our mobile map, and then see if you can hear the bird’s series of slurred whistles sounding like “cheer cheerful charmer” in the Meadow Garden itself. Continue on to our Forest Walk, where you can awaken your senses using shinrin yoku, the Japanese practice of relaxing among the trees as you observe nature. Take a moment to slow down and use mindful observations as you listen to the sounds of nature around you, connect with your sense of touch, and take in your surroundings. Along the way, look up towards Pierre’s Poplar, the tallest recorded Liriodendron tulipfera in the northeast United States, standing at a staggering 164.2 feet tall.

Observe nature and practice mindfulness along our Forest Walk. Photo by Carol DeGuiseppi.

Make your way to our iconic Main Fountain Garden and find fountain garden treasures by way of recently restored limestone sculptures and features. Can you find our 32 lion faces? How about our four life-sized turtles? Just beyond the Main Fountain Garden, take an alphabet walk in our multi-layered Hillside Garden, home to plants discovered through Longwood’s plant exploration program, as well as a nationally accredited boxwood collection that helps preserve the biodiversity of boxwood growing in the wild. As you explore the trails in this area, amid the sounds of chiming bells and a cascading waterfall, start at A and try to reach Z using the names of plants, insects, animals, or other things you see, hear, or feel along the way. 

Take a fun alphabet walk in our Hillside Garden—a perfect activity for families looking to engage with nature. Photo by Carol DeGuiseppi.
Find turtles, lions, and more in our Main Fountain Garden. Photo by Carol DeGuiseppi.

Last but certainly not least, measure the height of a tree in our Oak and Conifer Knoll, amid a canopy of stately oaks, conifers, and two dawn redwoods, a plant once thought to be extinct. Stroll the winding pathways and follow a fun, interactive way to measure the trees using your walking-step length.

Did you know you can measure a tree using your walking-step length? Find out how in Oak and Conifer Knoll. Photo by Carol DeGuiseppi.

Come explore the Discovery Trail, available through the Festival of Fountains season, with us today!

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