trees being planted in a construction site

A Major Reimagined Moment

By Katie Mobley, on

We recently marked a major horticultural moment in our Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience project—28 major moments, to be exact. Late last month, alongside the talented team from Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects, we proudly put into place the first plantings related to Longwood Reimagined—28 American yellowwoods (Cladrastis kentukea) atop our new Restaurant & Event Space in front of our existing Conservatory. By design, we planted these shade trees in allées in order to showcase their unique character and form—and we can’t wait to watch them grow as Longwood Reimagined continues to take shape and—from lifting the final structural steel column and beam assembly for the West Conservatory to completing our first planting—make beautiful, and exciting, progress.

American yellowwoods are particularly noteworthy for their golden yellow color in the fall, perfectly complemented by their smooth, gray bark. In late spring, fragrant, white flower clusters emerge that produce heavily in alternating years or every third year. Their unique and graceful organic branching structure will provide a nice counterpoint to the symmetry of the Conservatory and the regularity of their allée spacing.

yellowwood trees with their roots in burlap waiting to be planted

Our newly planted yellowwoods will reach a height of 35 to 50 feet. Photo by Patricia Evans.

With our last Longwood Reimagined update in October 2022, we shared such milestones as traveling to Napa Valley to tag the seven olive trees that will grace the central island in our new West Conservatory, to embarking on the façade panel installation for the new Restaurant & Event space, to much more. Over the last several months, we reached many notable achievements related to the project. In early November, we lifted into place the final structural steel column and beam assembly for our West Conservatory.

rows of steel beams forming a peaked roof

In all, 13 rows of steel, encompassing 63 columns and 82 curved beams, were expertly placed to reveal the beautiful lines of this unique design by Weiss/Manfredi. Photo by Daniel Traub.

Following the completion of the structural steel column and beam assembly, we started placing the West Conservatory’s secondary steel, which helps hold the West Conservatory glass in place. In early January 2023, we began installing the 1,958 panes of glass that will make up the roof and sides of the building.

a piece of glass hanging from a crane being installed on steel beams

One of the West Conservatory’s 1,958 panes of glass makes its way into place. Photo by Hank Davis.

the side of a conservatory showcasing steel beams and glass

To ensure the optimal light level for healthy plants, we are using a low-iron, ultra-flat laminated glass that reduces reflectance and increases the amount of full-spectrum light transmitted into the building. Photo by Hank Davis.

Most of the West Conservatory glass panes are unique in size and shape, with the largest measuring 4 feet by 20 feet. In all, the glasshouse will feature more than 424 operable windows in the roof and walls, and the vertical glass walls will have a dot-frit pattern to protect birds from the ultra-clear glass. We expect glass installation to be largely completed in late spring.

While the steel and glass progress has been highly visible, some of our other recent Longwood Reimagined progress has been more difficult to see—including the six 20,000-gallon tanks we have been burying on the south side of the West Conservatory. These very large tanks are part of our sustainable rainwater capture system for the site. The sustainable system will allow us to reuse collected rainwater from the roof of the new West Conservatory and Administration Building for gray water purposes.

two large tanks being buried underground

Two of the six tanks, which will help us hold and reuse collected rainwater. Photo provided by Bancroft Construction Company.

Beneath our newly planted yellowwoods, our new Restaurant & Event Space is quickly taking shape. We have finished installing and framing the nearly 2,000 square feet of glass among the 18 arched openings and three central arched doors that make up the façade of the space. We’ve also moved inside the space and continue to make fantastic progress.

Also very visible is our progress with the Administration Building, both inside and out. The exterior brick work is continuing, with the west side now complete. Also on the exterior you may notice vertical sunscreens, which are used to help mitigate direct sunlight from entering the library space inside.

the facade of a building being constructed

This drone shot taken in March 2023 shows an aerial view of the Administration Building progress. Photo provided by Bancroft Construction Company.

In late April, we placed a new, more efficient steam boiler—which can produce 20,700 pounds of steam per hour—into place to help heat our existing Conservatory and production greenhouses, including the root zone heating that helps keep our plants happy and allows us to direct heat to the soil where it is most needed for the plants … instead of expending extra energy over-heating the ambient air. We’ll be using steam and root zone-heating in our new West Conservatory too, but that boiler system will be only one of three systems used—we’ll also be using sustainable geothermal and earth duct technologies to heat, temper air, and control humidity throughout the Longwood Reimagined site.

Looking ahead we will soon begin installing the foundation for the new Cascade Garden, followed by steel placement for this incredibly exciting space. In fact, we’ve already poured the tunnels leading to the Cascade Garden from the West Conservatory.

As always, we’ll keep you updated on our Longwood Reimagined progress and continue to share the many facets of this incredibly detailed project as it unfolds. You can watch as the project progresses at longwoodgardens.org/beauty-making, as well as sign up for project updates at longwoodgardens.org/longwood-reimagined.

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