House & Theater District

Aerial view of house and theater gardens filled with trees, a small fountain garden, and brick house

The story of Longwood Gardens begins here.

In 1906, Pierre S. du Pont purchased a 202-acre farm and former Quaker homestead in order to save a collection of historic trees, unaware at the time that his purchase would grow to become one of the greatest display gardens in the world. Developed with the specific purpose of display, the House & Theatre Gardens District is an excellent representation of how Pierre’s passion for horticulture, design, and preservation laid the groundwork for an unparalleled garden experience, to be enjoyed by guests for many years to come. Transport yourself in the early days of Longwood, taking in views that Pierre and his family enjoyed more than a century ago, including Peirce’s Park and Peirce’s Woods.

About This District

Pierre intended to restore his newly acquired land as a space for entertaining friends—but the lavish gardens and dazzling fountains would come later. His first projects involved tending to the trees for which he’d purchased the property and restoring Peirce’s Park, a historic arboretum planted a hundred years earlier by Quaker farmers Joshua and Samuel Peirce, to its former glory. In the process, his vision for Longwood’s future took shape in a series of “firsts.” The 600-foot flower garden (what is now Flower Garden Walk), punctuated with a simple round fountain (another first!), was so beautiful the following spring that Pierre decided to host his first Longwood garden party—a tradition that would continue until 1940.


I have recently experienced what I would formerly have diagnosed as an attack of insanity; that is, I have purchased a small farm.
- Pierre S. du Pont


In 1913, following an inspiring trip to the Villa Gori in Siena, Italy, with his future wife, Alice, Pierre began construction on what would become the Open Air Theatre, complete with illuminated fountains that flanked the stage. When the fountains debuted at a 1914 garden party, the guests were delighted—as were Pierre and Alice. 

Pierre found the winters in the Brandywine Valley to be dreary, so in 1914 he began construction of his first conservatory as part of an L-shaped extension to the farmhouse. Planted with exotic tropical foliage and a marble fountain, it became Longwood’s first winter garden housed under glass. 

Gardens in this District

  • Flower Garden Walk & Compartment Gardens
    Sun shines on a circular fountain with a brick pathway in the background leading through green garden beds

    Flower Garden Walk & Compartment Gardens

    In Pierre S. du Pont’s very first garden at Longwood, 600 feet of dazzling hues of orchestrated botanical forms will take your breath away in one of our most popular (and photographed!) gardens.

  • Open Air Theatre & Theatre Garden
    partially overhead view of fountain jets shooting up from a sea green stage, against a backdrop of tall green trees

    Open Air Theatre & Theatre Garden

    Framed by a canopy of towering trees and clipped arborvitae, this Italian-style, outdoor garden theater has come alive with countless performances of every kind since its debut in 1914, and features fountain performances throughout the day.

  • Peirce-du Pont House
    A hanging basket is seen in the distance in a small house conservatory with green plants, metal railings, and a lamppost

    Peirce-du Pont House

    Step back in time for a glimpse into the lives of the du Ponts and the Peirce family at one of the oldest buildings at Longwood. Not to be missed: a Monstera deliciosa vine that’s been there since the mid-1900s.

  • Peirce’s Park
    sun shines through a line of trees on to a wooden bench sitting on path made of wood chips

    Peirce’s Park

    Home to two notable allées of stately and spectacular trees, this area is where Longwood’s story begins. Enjoy woodland wildflowers and soaring tree specimens, many of which are more than 100 years old.

  • Peirce’s Woods
    A stone gazebo sits beside a small lake tucked into a forest of bright green trees

    Peirce’s Woods

    This award-winning woodland garden, designed by W.Gary Smith, showcases mighty oaks, ashes, maples, and tulip-trees that tower over 200 species of native plants and cultivars, offering seasonal interest from spring through fall.

What’s in Bloom

  • Passion-flower

    Passiflora ′Lady Margaret′
  • Bolivian Sage

    Salvia oxyphora
  • Rough Goldenrod

    Solidago rugosa ′Fireworks′

    Solidago rugosa is a native perennial that forms loose spreading clumps of arching, hairy stems. Growing from creeping rhizomes, the general height of this plant is six feet tall and grows in wet soils, open woodlands, thickets, old fields, bogs, and along roadsides. The conditions best for this plant are full sun with average well drained soil. The golden yellow flower heads are held in loose panicle-like arrays. Its adaptability and the fact that it is not as aggressive as other goldenrods make it a great native plant for perennial borders and gardens. 'Fireworks' was selected for its shorter growth habit and heavier flowering. When in bloom the open flowers resemble fireworks. This cultivar reaches only about three feet in height.

  • White Snakeroot

    Ageratina altissima

    Growing to a height of three to four feet, white snakeroot is a fibrously rooted, native perennial that can be found in forests, thickets, and woodland margins. This plant can take full sun to part shade and prefers moist, rich conditions. The wonderful white flowers that occur late in the season, when flowers such as these are hard to come by, make it a wonderful addition to the garden.

  • Giant Reed

    Arundo donax
  • Aromatic Aster

    Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ′October Skies′

    Asters, Latin for stars, bring the growing season to a close in spectacular fashion. These native perennials come in a dazzling variety of shapes and colors, and are one of the last major food sources for bees and other pollinators before the advent of winter.

  • Tall, purple feather-like plants


    Agastache 'Ava'
  • Small, orange fan-like flowers

    Scarlet Bouvardia

    Bouvardia ternifolia
  • Lion's-tail

    Leonotis leonurus

    Widespread in its native home of South Africa, this plant favors loam or clay soils and can be found growing in full sun amongst rocks or grasslands. The orange flowers can be spotted from late summer, all through autumn, and attract birds and butterflies with their nectar, making the garden a hub of activity. Early South African dwellers (Khoisan) smoked the dried leaves and flowers, reporting a feeling of calm and euphoria, giving birth to the common name, wild dagga. The leaves are rough on the upper surface, with toothed margins and give off a herbal aroma when brushed or crushed.

  • Trifoliate-orange

    Poncirus trifoliata

    In addition to fragrant, white, spring flowers and interesting green stems and thorns, the citrus-like fruit of this thorny shrub gives it a unique interest in late summer and early autumn.  The small fruits will turn from green to orange and have a slightly sour and acidic taste.  The skin can be candied or made into marmalade.