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Voices in the Landscape

Voices in the Landscape

Voices in the Landscape collage. Images of Frederick Douglass and George Washington Carver courtesy of Library of Congress. Photo of Charlotte Blake Alston by Deborah Boardman. Location photography by Hank  Davis.

Deeply Rooted
with Storyteller
Charlotte Blake Alston

Take a Powerful Journey

Embark on a beautifully poignant journey with storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston as she honors and celebrates the strength, resilience, and contributions of the African American community through the lens of horticulture and the power of story. Through a series of 10 stops—experienced in-person throughout the Gardens via your phone or virtually from home—surround yourself in her moving spoken word and the stillness around you.

Hear an ancient Zulu creation myth paired with the oldest plant on Earth in the Conservatory; make your way to the Lookout Loft Treehouse and lean in to the story of the significance and symbolism of woods and meadows; call out the name of an ancestor in remembrance at the Large Lake while a traditional spiritual soothes your soul; and much more. Scroll down to discover Charlotte’s powerful voice as she leads you through the landscape, ending with a bonus track exclusive for our virtual guests.

When experiencing the exhibition in the Gardens, we recommend using headphones when listening to the audio files via your phone. Before your visit, please make sure your phone is charged. Once you’re in the Gardens, connect to FreeGardenWifi.

Voices in the Landscape is an Accessible Experience

The exhibition features a total of 10 audio experiences associated with specific locations throughout the Gardens, including seven outdoor stops and three stops in the Conservatory. The entire route is accessible without stairs and the length of the route, including the stops in the Conservatory,  is about 1.5 miles. Each audio recording ranges between three and eight minutes in length. The estimated time to experience the entire Voices in the Landscape exhibit is approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.

Accessible Exhibition Guide
This guide provides important information for people who are blind/low vision and/or experiencing hearing loss, so they can fully participate in and enjoy this Voices in the Landscape program.

Social Guide
This guide provides an overview of the experience of visiting Longwood Gardens so that guests can prepare or practice strategies for their visit.

Audio descriptionAudio files with introductory audio descriptions of each location are available below. Nicole Sardella voices the audio descriptions. The audio descriptions use words to describe the landscape and plants of Longwood associated with Charlotte’s stories, as experienced in the winter season. 

Thank you to our accessibility partner, Art-Reach.

Embark on your journey and enjoy this experience, anytime and anywhere, via the audio files below.

Rose Arbor

The Power of Story

Begin your Voices in the Landscape experience with the artist's statement and a vision of what’s to come.

Listen now:

Compartment Gardens

Roots of African American Gardening

Slip through an opening in the hedge to explore our hidden compartment gardens and discover the history of African American gardening traditions.

Listen now:

Listen with introductory audio description of the landscape:

Small Lake

The Ancestor Tree

Facing the Atlas cedar—native to the Atlas Mountains in Algeria and Morocco—a village’s longtime tradition of planting a tree in their ancestor forest is challenged.

Listen now:

Listen with introductory audio description of the landscape:

Large Lake

To Speak of Water

At the Large Lake, soothe your soul with a traditional spiritual and call out the name of an ancestor in remembrance.

Listen now:

Listen with introductory audio description of the landscape:

Meadow Boardwalk

A Walk with Frederick Douglass

Along the Meadow Boardwalk, find yourself on the grounds of Cedar Hill, where Douglass would retreat, rest, and restore.

Listen now:

Listen with introductory audio description of the landscape:

Lookout Loft Treehouse

Safety and Solace in the Woods

Here, amid the quiet of the Lookout Loft Treehouse, experience a place of shelter, of protection, of comfort.

Listen now:

Listen with introductory audio description of the landscape:

East Conservatory

Making a Connection

In the East Conservatory, an ancient Zulu creation myth meets one of the planet’s most ancient plants.

Listen now:

Listen with introductory audio description of the landscape:

Orangery

Beauty and Brilliance of Nature

A strikingly vibrant flower with a transformative symbol awaits here in the Main Conservatory, where its story takes flight.

Listen now:

Listen with introductory audio description of the landscape:

Orangery

A Horticultural Icon

Immerse yourself in the life and immeasurable impact of “The Plant Doctor” George Washington Carver, here amid the varied plants of the Main Conservatory.

Listen now:

Listen with introductory audio description of the landscape:

Cow Lot

The Legacy Continues

Conclude your Voices in the Landscape experience with this reflection of nurturing, of gratefulness, of growth.

Listen now:

Bonus Track

The Meetinghouse

At this bonus stop, outside of the Longwood property and exclusively for our virtual experience, learn about the powerful voices that have rung within this historic structure, and the messages that have traveled far beyond.

Listen now:

Listen with introductory audio description of the landscape:

About the Artist

Charlotte Blake Alston

Charlotte Blake Alston is a nationally acclaimed storyteller, narrator, singer, and librettist who performs in schools, universities, museums, and concert venues throughout North America and abroad. A highly sought after storyteller, she is committed to perpetuating the African and African American oral storytelling traditions.

Activities for Families and Kids

Watch Charlotte Blake Alston lead a recent webinar that takes an exciting look at the life and work of George Washington Carver. Explore Carver’s many achievements and how his impact continues to influence and affect us today. Find inspiration for your own horticultural activities with extension activities that encourage observation and experimentation. The webinar is designed for students in grades 2 through 6 and their families.

Voices in the Landscape: Deeply Rooted with Storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston texts by Charlotte Blake Alston, Copyright © Charlotte Blake Alston, January 2021
Photos: Images of Frederick Douglass and George Washington Carver courtesy of Library of Congress. Photo of Charlotte Blake Alston by Deborah Boardman. Voices in the Landscape location photography by Hank  Davis. Meetinghouse photo courtesy of the Chester County Historical Society.