a close up image of pink and white hydrangea blooms

Classic Spring Beauties with a Twist

By Jourdan Cole, on

Spring enters with grand style here at Longwood—new leaves unfold, baby birds chirp, and buds begin to bloom. Outdoors, the pastel hues of pinks, whites, and lavenders dot the scenic views. And in our Conservatory, an extraordinary explosion of new blooms is ready to be admired. Through April, classic spring plants such as hydrangeas, azaleas, and fuchsias bloom indoors in new and exciting varieties. We’re highlighting new-to-Longwood cultivars of these signature spring darlings (and some classic houseplants) indoors to mirror the bright energy that comes with the incredible burst of new life outdoors. With many of these selections, our horticulturists have transcended the tried-and-true soft hues of the season to also swath the Conservatory with bright reds, corals, and purples.

Among those elevated classics in the Conservatory this April are bigleaf hydrangeas, with their signature showstopping blooms and elegant foliage. Each giant pom-pom of pink, blue, purple, or white could be its own bouquet with drop-dead gorgeous blooms. For the spring season, we’ve brought an exceptional range of hydrangeas into bloom in the Conservatory—including five new varieties that are both new to Longwood and recent to the trade. Guests looking to expand their knowledge of plants or looking for ideas for their home gardens should take note of the many distinctive varieties on display. For one, look up to see the unusual, striking Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Saxcanhea’ (Saxon Candy Heart), with its dramatic pink flowers edged in white, hanging in baskets throughout the Conservatory.

a hydrangea plants with pink petals blooming

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Double Fay Pink’ stuns in the Orangery. Photo by Holden Barnes.

Hydrangeas aren’t often used as bedding plants—since they tend to grow much larger than low-blooming ground covers—but they’re gracing our Conservatory beds this season with their spectacular beauty. We’ve chosen relatively short varieties with long bloom times that are packed with flowers. To create drifts of color throughout our beds, we’ve used such compact varieties as Hydrangea macrophylla 'Baladia Pink' and Hydrangea macrophylla 'Double Fay Pink’.

a blooming hydrangea plant with magneta pentals

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Baladia Pink' is used as a bedding plant near the Fern Floor. Photo by Holden Barnes.

Another timeless beauty, fuchsias have gone in and out of vogue many times throughout the years. They were especially loved during the Victorian era, and a favorite of Queen Victoria herself. Today, hundreds of varieties can be grown upright, trellised, trailing, vining, or shaped into pillars and pyramids. We love using them in our hanging baskets.

a hanging basket of fuchsia

Fuchsia x hybrida 'Pour le Menneke' hanging in the Acacia Passage. Photo by Candie Ward.

Most often, we see fuchsia hybrids that have been selected for desired traits like their colorful flowers or unusual forms. Take a look at Fuchsia x hybrida 'Pour le Menneke,' for example, as shown in the above image. The tubes on this fuchsia can grow to be more than four inches long.

a close up image of a fuchsia plant with orange petals

Fuchsia 'Traudchen Bonstedt' delight in the Main Conservatory. Photo by Holden Barnes.

Fuchsia 'Traudchen Bonstedt, found in our Main Conservatory this month, is a magnificent soft salmon fuchsia that was very popular for decades, but has recently been dropped from commercial production. Longwood preserves its genetic stock and continues to display this lovely selection.

Not to be forgotten, azaleas are a garden classic that herald the start of the season for many gardeners. These popular and familiar spring plants have been in full bloom throughout the winter season in the Conservatory and continue into spring. Those in our Conservatory are winter-hardy selections for our region that have been specially forced to bloom months before you'll see them outside. While certain azalea varieties can bloom to be more than 20 feet tall, the azalea hybrids in our Conservatory are dwarf varieties of Keepsake® azaleas: Rhododendron 'Bittersweet' and Rhododendron 'Scarlet'. These hybrids are a much more manageable size that have a wide range of flower colors.

a close up of a rhododendron plant with dark pink flowers

Rhododendron 'Scarlet' (Keepsake® azalea) near the Oval Basin. Photo by Cathy Matos.

Though every day is a flower show in Longwood’s Conservatory, our resident houseplants should not be overlooked. Take for instance our many showy begonias, gently tucked away in containers placed throughout our Conservatory. A perennial favorite, begonias have a spot in nearly every good houseplant hunter’s collection.

There’s a vast world of begonias to be found in containers at Longwood. Find them in red, pink, white, and more on the sides of paths throughout the East Conservatory during our Spring Blooms season. Some have smooth leaves, while others have hairs or are spotted. They can have round, whorled, or even star-shaped blooms.

a close up of a begonia plant

Find Begonia ‘Fiji Islands’ near a sitting corner in the East Conservatory. Photo by Becca Mathias.

Look for rhizomatous begonias in the East Conservatory, whose leaves jut from rhizomes at the base. With stripes, bands, spots, or exceptionally colored leaves, these begonias have been bred for beauty. Begonia ‘Fiji Islands’ has striking, almost cupped leaves that look like they’re from another planet.

a pot of begonias with red leaves

Begonia 'Solar Flare' in the East Conservatory. Photo by Becca Mathias.

‘Solar Flare’ is a hybrid rhizomatous begonia that features bright orange foliage. Leaves emerge as a dark orangish-red before maturing into bronze-like orange.

inside the conservatory with begonia plants in containers

Find this beautiful houseplant combo of Begonia ‘Torch’, Samoan-gardenia (Tabernaemontana africana), and Begonia ‘Black Fang’ in between the Indoor Children’s Garden and Orangery. Photo by Becca Mathias.

Cane-like or angel wing begonias, such as Begonia ‘Torch,’ can grow to impressive heights. With wing-like leaf shapes that can be speckled or spotted with color, be on the lookout for spring-time clusters of flowers in red, pink, orange, or white.

a close up of green and red begonia leaves

Many of the begonias feature a touch of pink or red—even in an unexpected place. Begonia ‘Joe Hayden’, for one, features a deep green leaf with a dark red underside; you can find this begonia outside of the Indoor Children’s Garden. Photo by Becca Mathias.

From vibrant bigleaf hydrangeas, to unique fuchsia hybrids, to hybrid azalea beauties, to a world of begonias, find classic spring selections—elevated—in our Conservatory this April.

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