East Conservatory Plaza

Two people sit along levels of freshly cut grass in the summer with green tress behind
Abstract, Contemporary, Whimsical
Best Seasons to Visit
Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn

As Longwood's one and only landform, the East Conservatory Plaza is a feat of artistic vision, expert engineering, and thoughtful collaboration. Five tiers of sweeping, grass-covered terraces emerge like steps from the land, providing a grand transition from the forest to the Conservatory. In the fall, the autumn colors of the mature trees provide a striking backdrop to this verdant space.

About This Garden 

Opened in 2010 and designed by renowned British landscape architect Kim Wilkie, the East Conservatory Plaza is a sight to behold. With his eye for detail and superb sensibility for space, Wilkie was the perfect choice to help us transform this area into a stunning visual experience. While the plaza was inspired by the arresting terraces of Heveningham Hall of Suffolk County, United Kingdom, Wilkie's design is very "Longwood" in its integration--seamlessly melding his modern design into the existing landscape with an expertly curated collection of trees and shrubs. The careful placement of red maple, sweet-gum, bald-cypress, eastern red-cedar, and tulip-tree, as well as southern bush-honeysuckle, Japanese holly, and Virginia sweetspire enhance and extend the planting of the surrounding gardens and woods. As a nod to the history of this space, a champion yew was incorporated into his design: planted at Longwood in 1930 as a mature specimen, it now stands at 33 feet high with a trunk of about 16 feet in girth.

For the five tiers of terraced lawn (that’s 13,800 square feet!), we chose a mix of two varieties of Kentucky bluegrass and three varieties of tall fescue for early spring green color. Due to the slope of the terraced landform, we use a novel and innovative combination of overhead and subsurface irrigation systems to provide adequate and efficient hydration. An overhead system alone would not suffice because of the potential for water to run off the slope; the subsurface irrigation system combats the runoff and supplements irrigation. We keep the turf in pristine condition throughout the year with a hover mower, designed to scale the sloping surfaces of the lawn without marring the sculptural effect of the terraces.