KENNETT SQUARE, PA . . . On June 13 Longwood Gardens will debut its new Meadow Garden, an iconic American landscape spanning 86 acres that showcases native plantings and highlights the relationship between the human and natural worlds. Both sustainably managed and visually artistic, the Meadow Garden blends bursts of colorful plantings and grand vistas with best practices in land stewardship. The Meadow Garden is actively propagated with herbaceous perennials and includes other interventions to manage invasive plants, control trees and shrubs, and promote wildlife.
“The new Meadow Garden is an exciting departure from the more formal gardens at Longwood,” said Director Paul. B. Redman. “In the Meadow Garden, guests will experience a bucolic Brandywine Valley landscape and discover the beauty and variety of native and naturally producing plants and gain an appreciation for the interconnectedness of the plants and wildlife in the Meadow. The Meadow Garden is the latest example of our commitment to sustainable practices and sound land management,” said Redman. “We look forward to sharing with our guests the important role the Meadow Garden plays in the ecology of our community.”
The Meadow Garden was designed by Jonathan Alderson of Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects of Wayne, PA. The firm specializes in the use of native plantings and appropriate materials combined with a strong regard for site and ecology to create sustainable places.
In addition to the hundreds of plant varieties already thriving in the Meadow and the surrounding woodland edge, more than 100 species have been added to create sweeps of color, texture, and biodiversity that permeate the landscape, providing interest and habitat benefit in every season. In spring, woody plants such as Carolina silverbell, Eastern redbud, flowering dogwood and sweet azalea grace the woodland/meadow edge, along with a robust herbaceous layer of species such as wild cranesbill, Indian-physic, and Virginia bluebells.
In the summer, meadow species such as black-eyed Susan, hollow Joe-Pye-weed and various sunflowers and ironweeds provide visual show and habitat benefit, along with host plants for the declining monarch butterfly, such as common milkweed, butterfly-weed, and swamp milkweed.
The fall palette includes numerous native asters and warm-season meadow grasses, along with the foliage of woodland edge species such as red and sugar maple, and red, white and mossy-cup oaks.
In the winter, the dried seed pods of the flowering plants and the various grasses provide more subdued beauty and textural effect, while providing important winter habitat for a variety of native insects and animals.
Built to showcase and inform guests about the beauty of native and naturally producing flora throughout the seasons, the Meadow Garden illustrates how native plants can be used in guests’ own green spaces for both aesthetic and habitat benefit.
The Meadow Garden is an example of ecological design, meaning that the design minimizes environmentally destructive impacts by integrating itself with living processes, and that land stewardship techniques are implemented with the goal of enhancing and maintaining the resilience of the existing native plant communities.
When designing the Meadow Garden, Landscape Architect Jonathan Alderson took inspiration from patterns that occur naturally and has accentuated them to create experiences that celebrate the Meadow’s temporal and ever-changing nature. These experiences begin to educate the visitor about larger messages, including local land management and its evolution over time.
“This meadow is a direct reflection of how the human and natural worlds interact, offering a valuable ecological and cultural experience,” Jonathan Alderson explains.
Longwood’s horticultural and ecological experts will steward the ecosystems within the Meadow Garden by enhancing native plantings, managing invasive species, and supporting air, water, and soil quality. By more than doubling the size of the Meadow to 86 acres, there is increased potential for several animal species, such as the Eastern Meadowlark, that require a sizable meadow habitat to complete their life cycle and for migratory purposes.
The plant and soil communities of the Meadow Garden function as a living water filter for the ponds, headwater streams and wetlands throughout the space. The stewardship of the Meadow Garden that supports these communities also contributes to the enhancement of the water quality and quantity of the Brandywine River watershed, along with providing high-quality habitat for a variety of terrestrial and aquatic organisms.
Meadow Garden Features
More than three miles of walking and hiking trails lead visitors to the diverse habitats found across the Meadow Garden’s terrain. From the forest’s edge, where the woodlands meet the Meadow Garden, to the open, undulating fields, to the lush wetlands surrounding the Hourglass Lake, the Meadow Garden is a bucolic tapestry of trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses, and wildflowers that showcase the remarkable beauty that native plants bring to a landscape. Each habitat also demonstrates the complex interrelationships of plants, insects, birds, amphibians and many small animals to one another.
In addition to its contemplative beauty, the Meadow Garden is a place of discovery and learning. The Meadow Bridge provides a venue for school groups and others to learn about the plants in the Meadow Garden and the birds and insects they sustain. The Hawk Point Pavilion sits proudly at one of the highest elevations in the Meadow Garden, providing not only an arresting vista with expansive sky, perfect for bird watching, but the opportunity to learn about and identify the birds that call the Meadow Garden home. The Pollination Pavilion explores the important role of pollinators, from bumble bees to butterflies to hummingbirds, highlighting the plants that attract each pollinator. The Hourglass Lake Pavilion explores the nearby wetlands, sharing the story of how this habitat is the foundation for a food web that includes insects, amphibians, fish, small mammals and numerous birds. Finally, the Forest Edge Pavilion shares the story of the surrounding woodlands and the plant and wildlife that reside there.
The historic Webb Farmhouse, which has stood on the property since the early 1700s, has been restored and will serve as an interpretive center. Inside, guests can explore two galleries, one showcasing photography and art work depicting the beauty of the Meadow throughout the changing seasons; the second shares the story of the people who have inhabited and influenced the land since the Lenni Lenape. John Milner Architects of Chadds Ford, PA, (http://www.johnmilnerarchitects.com/) led the restoration of the farmhouse.
Local Artisans Create Sustainable Beauty
The Meadow Garden is the latest example of Longwood’s commitment to sustainable practices. Environmentally friendly, locally sourced materials are used throughout the meadow. The benches offering quiet respite and stunning views are constructed from fallen trees from Longwood property, and local reclaimed historic wood beams and floor boards were used in the restoration work in the Webb House. Much of the hardscape throughout the Meadow Garden features Avondale stone, sourced from nearby Avondale, PA, and the plant material was grown in nearby nurseries. Local masons, carpenters, blacksmiths, and other contractors worked to handcraft the pavilions, stone work, bridges and decorative gates throughout the landscape.
Opening Weekend, Meadow Days
The opening weekend celebration June 13-15 invites guests to open up their eyes (and ears) to a world of blooming, buzzing, and ﬂying. Enjoy a nature seek-and-find for kids, learn how this new garden was created and explore its beauty on guided hikes at 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 1:30 pm, and engage with volunteers and staff who will spark your curiosity about its inter-connected ecology from 11 am -3 pm. Nature’s beauty and variety await guests every day in the Meadow Garden. The Meadow’s expansiveness allows for guests to enjoy self-guided, solitary walks to reconnect with the nature, or sit and watch the interaction between wildlife and the habitats in which they reside. Meadow Days offer more opportunities for fun and exploration. Meadow days are on August 2 from 4-8 pm; September 20, 11am–3pm, and October 11 from 11 am–3 pm. Experts will be on hand to answer questions and share the story of the Meadow Garden’s flora and fauna as guests explore walking trails, embark on a seek-and-find, and more.
About Longwood Gardens
In 1906, industrialist Pierre du Pont (1870-1954) purchased a small farm near Kennett Square, PA, to save a collection of historic trees from being sold for lumber. Throughout his life, Mr. du Pont indulged his passion for gardening, turning his farm into a magnificent horticultural showplace. Today, Longwood Gardens is one of the world’s great gardens, encompassing 1,077 acres of gardens, woodlands, meadows, fountains, and a 4-acre conservatory. Longwood continues the mission set forth by Mr. du Pont to inspire people through excellence in garden design, horticulture, education and the arts, through programming that includes exhibitions, performing arts, renowned horticulture education programs, horticulture research, environmental stewardship and cultural and community engagement. Longwood Gardens is on US Route 1 near Kennett Square, PA, 30 miles west of Philadelphia. Admission is $18 for adults; $15 for seniors (age 62+); $8 for students (ages 5–18 or with valid student ID) and free ages 4 and under. Group rates available. Details at www.longwoodgardens.org.
About Jonathan Alderson
Jonathan Alderson is Principal at Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects, Inc. of Wayne, PA. The firm is passionately focused on fusing history, context, and ecology to create sustainable landscapes and believes that the use of native plantings and appropriate materials combined with a strong regard for site and ecology can lead to the creation of extraordinary and sustainable places. They are committed to design that, born from the site, sculpts open space into artful form. Details at http://www.jonathanalderson.com/JALA/