A scene at Longwood Gardens with a love temple in the foreground and a construction site in the background.

Longwood Reimagined: New Moments, New Excitement

By Katie Mobley, on

From steel and glass, to Atlas cedars and boxwood, to repurposed wood and a decorative trellis, we’ve recently made tremendous strides in our Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience project. As our most ambitious expansion, reimagination, and preservation of our Conservatory and surrounding landscape in a century continues to take shape, we’re so pleased to share with you the latest moments and milestones along the way. We also share with you our just-announced Longwood Reimagined Lecture Series—which delves into the many stories and evolution of Longwood Reimagined—and we invite you to join us here in the Gardens or online for the series’ very first lecture.   

In late August, we welcomed hundreds more plantings in front of what will be our new 1906 restaurant and The Fountain Room event space—765 to be exact! We planted 765 boxwood of the cultivar Buxus New GenIndependence®, which was selected for its leafminer and blight resistance characteristics … as well as its similar appearance and growth to Buxus microphylla ‘Green Beauty’ found in the Main Fountain Garden. In the coming years, the boxwood will be trimmed and shaped by our talented horticulturists to match the billowy design style of style of the boxwood throughout the Main Fountain Garden and to help create a cohesive and picturesque vista for those dining in 1906. 

The facade of the Longwood Conservatory under construction.

Our 765 new boxwood can be seen along the façade of the new 1906 and Fountain Room, as viewed from the Main Fountain Garden. Photo by Amy Simon Berg.

In that same area, we continue to work on the 1906 facade, by way of installing a decorative trellis upon which 27 espaliered magnolias will grow. We’ll be planting the magnolias in early November … and can’t wait to see entire façade will soon take all-new shape and color.

In our May 2023 Longwood Reimagined blog post, we shared the news of our first Longwood Reimagined plantings—28 American yellowwoods (Cladrastis kentuckea) atop our new 1906 Restaurant and in front of our existing Conservatory and atop our new boxwood plantings. We recently installed lighting around these beautiful shade trees, which will further highlight their unique character and form that serve as a beautiful counterpoint to the symmetry of the Conservatory. With the addition of this lighting, this allée of yellowwoods will serve as an inviting promenade that can be strolled both day and night, complete with spectacular views of the Main Fountain Garden.

A drone image of the Longwood Conservatory under constrction.

This drone shot from August shows a bird’s-eye view of our in-process allée of yellowwoods. Photo provided by Bancroft Construction Company.

We’re also working with the Challenge Program, a Wilmington, Delaware nonprofit that provides vocational construction skills training to Delaware’s young people. With Longwood, the Challenge Program is creating custom furnishings from fallen trees from across Longwood’s acreage. This handcrafted solid wood furniture will be installed in the new 1906 and select areas of The Grove, and will include a host desk, farm table, and private dining tables and conference tables made of hickory, catalpa, and ash.  

In early July, we began lifting the 27 tons of steel for the new glass structure that will house our beloved Cascade Garden. Originally designed by acclaimed Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, our Cascade Garden is the only remaining Burle Marx design in North America. We have worked with a team of scholars, preservation experts, and the Burle Marx Landscape Design Studio to preserve and move the garden into this new 3,800-square-foot jewel box that will give the plants more room to continue to grow and flourish. We are now working on installing the Cascade Garden’s glass and will begin replanting the garden this spring.

A glass conservatory being constructed.

More than 27 tons of steel make up the Cascade Garden structure; here, a portion of the glass panels are shown installed. Photo by Bancroft Construction Company.

In mid-October, we planted three Atlas cedars (Cedrus atlantica) adjacent to our new 1906 restaurant and The Fountain Room event space. These three trees join more than 30 existing Atlas cedars throughout our Gardens. Currently measuring 25 to 30 feet tall, the trees are slower-growing but will eventually reach 40 to 60 feet in height with wide-spreading graceful branches.  

A cedar tree tied up and being moved by a lift.

One of our new Atlas cedars makes it way to the Gardens. Photo by Hank Davis.

Two drone images of the Longwood Reimagined project focusing on the sod at Longwood Gardens.

We also recently installed nearly 43,000 square feet of sod on the Conservatory Outlook and outside of the new 1906 and The Fountain Room. The left drone photo shows the area before sod was installed; the right photo shows the area with most of the sod installed. Photos by Bancroft Construction Company.

Looking ahead, we’re turning our sights to the new plantings slated for the 3.7 acres of meadow along the south slope overlooking the Main Fountain Garden, which will include 70,000 bluestem native plugs. In the coming months, a series of courtyard gardens to include 300 trees, 670 shrubs, and some 10,000 perennials will emerge around the new West Conservatory and The Grove—our recently named administration building that will feature state-of-the-art studios, virtual leaning studios, a library, and staff offices. Work will soon intensify around the Waterlily Court as we make progress on new restrooms and soon the installation of pre-cast pillars, which will help form the space’s arcade—and we’ll keep you updated as we go.

Freshly laid sod at the Longwood Reimagined project.

Our West Conservatory continues to take shape. Photo by Amy Simon Berg.

You can also hear from the experts behind Longwood Reimagined during the first event of our new Longwood Reimagined Lecture Series: Celebrating Collections from Bonsai to Victoria. During this November 8 events, join us in the Gardens or online via livestream and discover how Longwood Reimagined celebrates the legacy of our horticultural collections while elevating them for the future. Learn about the importance of collections to botanic gardens with Keeper of the Living Collections at The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University Michael Dosmann, Ph.D., who serves as the lecture’s keynote speaker and moderator. Then, delve into the significance and growth of Longwood’s key collections with Director of Science Kate Santos, Ph.D.; Director of Conservatories and Horticulture Design Chad Davis; and Horticulture Specialty Growers Tim Jennings (aquatics) and Kevin Bielicki (bonsai). Along the way, discover what’s on the horizon for Longwood’s bonsai to aquatics to chrysanthemum collections. Registration is required by November 5. 

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