Longwood Gardens Bus Trip

Yesterday I went on a bus trip to a hidden gem in the Philadelphia area, Longwood Gardens.  This was my second trip with Sherry Ault Tours, an independent travel agent. I’m keeping an eye out for bus trips. It may even be worthwhile to expand my range since Martz Tours in Wilkes-Barre had a trip to Quebec which would have been more convenient than my trip next week.

Longwood Gardens is like the Versailles of Pennsylvania. It does not have the palace of a Versailles but it has the palace grounds of a Versailles with gardens fit for a European palace. In fact, the gardens of Longwood Gardens were inspired by many famous European gardens including Versailles. I learned that in my tour of the Peirce-du Pont House. By the way, I actually saw the gardens of Versailles on my trip to Paris several years ago.

I’ve read about Longwood Gardens in my travel guides to Philadelphia which include attractions in the Brandywine area. But Longwood Gardens is far west of Philadelphia so you can’t squeeze it in on a trip to that city. It would have to be an all-day side trip. I’m glad I was not driving to Longwood Gardens because it does seem a little hard to find. I took some notes on landmarks I saw on the way.

The only thing that marred my trip was problems with my digital camera. Any photo I take which includes the sky is turning out with serious washout. Fortunately, this did not ruin too many photos but I have to buy a new digital camera since this seems to be a common problem with the CCD-chip or lens. Its cheaper to replace a camera than to try to have it fixed. I will upgrade to 12 mega-pixels. Hopefully this will also solve the annoying problem I have with my digital camera losing its date settings.

Longwood Gardens was really magical. They even have fairy lights in the woods, a fiber-optic light display. I especially liked the Italian Garden although it was not working and I found it empty. Italy will be my next European destination so I appreciate a little inspiration. The massive conservatory was also very impressive. I liked the palm tree house most of all because it was very tropical. The Topiary Garden was also pretty cool.

But my favorite place was the meadow. A meadow may not seem like much but this meadow struck me as being highly unusual. It was a vast hillside meadow with a barn visible way off in the distance. In that respect it was a very typical Pennsylvania landscape and reminded me of some hiking trips in my youth. But what I found most unusual about this meadow was that it was filled with waist-high weeds and wildflowers. The meadow was jam packed with wildflowers and weeds in a way that seemed a little unnatural. I found the following description of the meadow on the Longwood Gardens web site.

Once the site of a planted field and pasture, this area was created to add a new dimension to the horticultural display of Longwood Gardens. The meadow represents the first stage in the natural succession process: the progressive replacement of one plant community by another, from field to forest. To maintain the meadow, Longwood mows or burns it once a year in late winter to prevent tree and shrub growth. The native wildflowers found there have either been planted by Longwood horticulturists or independently established from seed dispersed by wind or animals. Persistent invasive weeds such as Japanese honeysuckle and Canada thistle are controlled mechanically and by applying selective herbicide sprays. In late summer and early fall, the meadow is particularly attractive and alive with moths, butterflies and birds. Visitors can explore the meadow by following the mowed path

So the meadow is indeed a field of wildflowers which has been artificially created and maintained to prevent certain types of plants from growing there. This accounts for the haunting nature of the meadow.  It represents an exaggeration of something familiar, at least to Pennsylvania residents familiar with the native wildflowers, and therefore has the same qualities as dream imagery. I wonder if the meadow is as haunting to non PA residents? To them it may appear charming but probably does not trigger deep associations.

I took lots of photos of the tall weeds in the foreground with the farm houses in the background. Luckily these photos turned out well and are as visually striking as I had hoped.

We were at Longwood Gardens for a long time in order to see the Fountain and Light show at 9:15 p.m. The bus did not leave until 10:30 p.m. and I did not get home until 3:30 a.m. But it was worth because I had plenty of time to explore the gardens. I even saw an exotic music performance at the Open Air Theatre, the Indian Bhangra & Brass Funk Concert by Red Baraat. I see they performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival which is interesting because I’m going to Montreal next week so of course I know about their Jazz Festival.

I should be able to visit Longwood Gardens some time in the future since it is a popular attraction and frequent tour bus destination. But for now I need to focus on my big trip to Montreal next week. After that I really need to improve my finances because all this travel is expensive. I won’t be able to go to Italy next year if I don’t earn a lot of extra income.

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