The Idea Garden at Longwood with spring plantings in the beds and the conervatory in the distance.

Our Idea Garden, Reimagined

By Katie Mobley, on

As we grow nearer to our November 22 Longwood Reimagined debut, we are so pleased to share with you our newly reimagined Idea Garden, now open for you and ready to be enjoyed. Located on the western edge of our formal gardens with dramatic views of our soon-to-come West Conservatory, the newly reopened Idea Garden is both beautiful and educational. The garden showcases a range of approaches to gardening and design and uses plant varieties that can be reliably grown by home gardeners in the mid-Atlantic region. Follow along as we give you a look at this freshly planted space, which will grow and evolve over the coming months.

Featuring five unique garden spaces—including the redesigned Ornamental Kitchen Garden—the Idea Garden echoes some of the classical elements of the Main Fountain Garden and blends the formal with the less formal, and notably the agrarian. The reimagined space now features more pathways and new display areas dedicated to annuals, perennials, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and more. You’ll find traditional bedding plants amid swaying grasses and handcrafted support structures—all showcasing our horticulturists’ passion for plants and their creativity. 

An ever-changing palette of color can be found in the Annual Corridor, an evolving space featuring tropical, hardy, and flowering plants. Bulbs take center stage in the spring, while annual flowers bloom throughout the summer months into fall. Here you’ll find new and exciting plants that are available commercially amid a coordinated vista of bright hues and artful combinations.

The Idea Garden at Longwood with spring plantings in the beds.

Our Annual Corridor, awaiting discovery. Photo by Becca Mathias.

Combinations continue in the Combination Garden, a dynamic space specifically used to showcase interesting and creative botanical combinations. With a variety of shrubs, perennials, annuals, bulbs, and small flowering trees, you’ll see the natural succession of blooming, receding, setting seed, and renewal for the herbaceous plants found here—offering learning and discovery, season after season.

The Idea Garden at Longwood with spring plantings in the beds.

Our Combination Garden showcases artful botanical combinations. Photo by Becca Mathias.

Looking for a living plant catalog? Visit our Perennial Border and its curated variety of herbaceous sun- and shade-loving perennials of textures, hues, and forms galore. This space doubles as an immersive study guide for many of our Continuing Education offerings. 

An empty wooden bench in the Idea Garden at Longwood.

Spend a quiet moment amid a variety of textures, colors, and forms in our Perennial Border. Photo by Becca Mathias.

Vegetables, fruits, and herbs are beautiful and bountiful in our recently reimagined and redesigned Ornamental Kitchen Garden. Dedicated to growing vegetables since 1927, this spectacular space supports the growth and production of more than 200 rotating fruit, vegetable, and herb crops each year, from Mediterranean culinary herbs to such staples as salad greens and tomatoes—and tells an agricultural story that food production is an important part of horticulture. 

A close up of apple and peach trees with fruit growing on the branches.

With the Ornamental Kitchen Garden’s redesign, we have increased its crop production space by 25 percent and have added a new fence featuring 16 espaliered apple and peach trees. Photo by Becca Mathias.

Crops grown in our Ornamental Kitchen Garden are used for a variety of purposes, including here in our Gardens and in our local community. Some produce is grown and harvested for Kennett Area Community Service in Kennett Square—a nonprofit focused on food, housing, and crisis services in Southern Chester County—for whom we began growing crops in 2020 and to date have grown and delivered nearly 12,000 pounds of food to the organization. Some of the crops will be used in our new 1906 Restaurant upon our Longwood Reimagined debut, while select crops will be used for our partnership with Victory Brewing Company, through which we grow ingredients—from strawberries to cherries and ginger to peaches—for use in our Longwood Seasons brews served in the Beer Garden. 

The Idea Garden at Longwood with spring plantings in the beds.

Our Ornamental Kitchen Garden. Photo by Becca Mathias.

You’ll also find dedicated areas of cut flowers grown to be available to our floral design team, as well as to help create a balanced ecosystem in the Ornamental Kitchen Garden, inviting beneficial insects to the space. Amid this space’s rows of crops, to espaliered fruit trees, to cut flowers, find inspiration for your own culinary garden with varieties both common and unusual. 

The Idea Garden at Longwood with spring plantings in the beds and a bronze circular archway in along the pathways.

In the Ornamental Kitchen Garden, you can also find inspiration and techniques for growing crops in a small space by way of handcrafted sculptural arches, trellises, and domes. Photo by Becca Mathias.

The fifth space in our Idea Garden, the seasonal Student Exhibition Garden—on view now through October—is designed and maintained by the students in our two-year Professional Horticulture Program. In the Student Exhibition Garden, our Professional Horticulture Program students are responsible for designing and planting three garden spaces within a given budget, sticking to provided themes and design requirements. This year’s theme centers on community and its three garden spaces are representative of healing through shared meals and how food can serve as nourishment for body and soul; the timeless art of basket weaving in which each valuable component provides strength and support to the others; and the delicate balance between giving and receiving, the nurturing touch of water and sunlight, and how the earth holds stories of growth and renewal. 

Two bronze goat statues placed in a garden setting.

Also in the Idea Garden, Chloe and Lucinda—a life-size bronze sculpture by celebrated Brandywine Valley artist André Harvey—continues to grace the garden and accentuate what this space is all about: creativity. Photo by Candie Ward.

As with all gardens, it will take some time for some of our Idea Garden’s new plantings to grow and mature. While we’re celebrating its reopening with some spring-flowering features now, we look forward to a larger spring display in the Idea Garden in full bloom next spring. As the Idea Garden continues to grow and evolve, we are thrilled to welcome you to this beautiful and educational space, designed to connect guests of all ages with plants in the most fundamental of ways, while showcasing beautiful and unusual cultivars of familiar crops that sustain us. We look forward to experiencing this space with you. 

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