Our beloved century-old Orchid House is being preserved and expanded to better display our renowned orchid collection.
An original feature of our Conservatory, our historic Orchid House has long showcased not only our exceptional orchid collection … but also our long-standing dedication to enhancing and displaying one of our oldest plant collections. Upon its reopening, the Orchid House will be transformed into an open, gallery-like space featuring hundreds of orchids in custom frame trellises, along its columns, and in its restored bronze case … lending to a stunningly immersive orchid-viewing experience in which we hope to showcase 25 to 50 percent more orchids throughout the year.
The original Orchid House was first equipped for growing orchids in 1928. Its bronze display case was added in 1929 and then restored in 1966. The Orchid House preservation project will result in the restoration and relocation of its original bronze cases, as well as the restoration of its bronze windows and its interior and exterior concrete. The Orchid House will feature a new glass roof, new glass walls, a new vestibule, new lighting, new custom frame trellises, and new display components. After its opening, our orchid grower will continue to hand-pick and replace the orchids on display with others from our orchid growing houses three times each week … meaning there will always be something different to see in this spectacular space.
Even when standing outside of the Orchid House, the beautiful, botanical lines of the custom trellis frames—not to mention the colorful blooms of the orchids themselves—will be seen through the glass, allowing the beauty of the Orchid House to be appreciated from many new viewpoints.
Pop-up Orchid Displays
During the Orchid House preservation project, guests will be able to enjoy special pop-up displays of our orchid collection showcased along our Green Wall.
Orchids have long held a prominent place at Longwood. They were a passion of our founder Pierre S. du Pont and his wife, Alice, who were both charter members of the American Orchid Society. Orchids were also one of our first plant collections. Started in 1922, our collection first consisted of plants that Mr. and Mrs. du Pont purchased extensively from American growers, as well as imported from growers in India, Thailand, and the Caribbean to England, France, and Belgium.
Over the years, many orchid enthusiasts have added to the du Ponts’ original collection. In 1948, the collection was greatly enlarged when Mr. du Pont’s sister-in-law, Ethel du Pont, donated her well-known and respected collection of more than 2,300 orchid plants to Longwood. Dr. Sam Breit of Australia gave 184 orchids in the mid-1980s; and in 2001, Mr. Cuba Center offered 274 orchids, a significant portion of Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland’s personal collection. Longwood volunteer and orchid lover Duane Erdmann also contributed 236 of his own species and selections. In 2017, Longwood was offered a selection of the award-winning, diverse plant collection from the estate of Dorrance “Dodo” Hamilton, a longtime and avid supporter of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. As a result of this incredibly generous gesture, Longwood acquired more than 100 specimen conservatory plants and 50 orchids.
A collection that started with the passion of two people, and was then skillfully cared for and enhanced by our expert orchid growers over the last hundred years, has grown into our current orchid collection of 5,500 plants representing 2,500 different taxa. Our orchids—and our Orchid House itself—truly represent Longwood’s unwavering standard of excellence, our commitment to upholding the legacy of our founders … and our dedication to displaying beauty in the best possible way for our guests.
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