Visit: Spring Blooms at Longwood Gardens
The Spring Blooms celebration at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania showcases a spectacular display of tulips—a nod to Pierre S. du Pont who laid out Longwood Gardens and planted the first tulips in 1907. During Spring Blooms, which spans from April 5th through May 23rd, visitors can experience over 250,000 tulips in bloom!
The Flower Garden Walk, designed to capture the delight of old cottage gardens, was installed by Pierre S. du Pont to hold the very first tulips grown at Longwood. According to Ed Broadbent, head gardener at Longwood, "Historically it was a tulip display, but in the last decade we've been adding more diversity. It's challenging to have a display that works for Easter and Mother's day, which is a huge span of time." What's really time consuming is the planning process that begins well over a year in advance because planting this display occurs in the fall.
As this year's borders bloom at Longwood Gardens, the designers are already preparing for the fall planting season. Their plan for the 600-foot-long Flower Garden Walk shows how the drifts are laid out and specifies the bulb varieties that are applied. Only with this degree of design detail early on can such fabulous displays come to fruition.
It takes great visualization to assemble a mixed composition using such finely textured flowers and foliage. Here, the small flowers studded with larger tulips lend the casual cottage garden character without sacrificing elegance. At the end of the season, the bulbs are removed and either composted or planted elsewhere for safe keeping. More inspiring compositions are featured in the Idea Garden where an additional 100,000 bulbs, used in a plethora of ways, show visitors how bulbs can be integrated into any home garden.
The bulbs are planted from brand new stock each year. "One challenge is gauging the production in Holland well in advance because we need to know if sufficient quantities of the bulbs we need will be available to buy," says Broadbent who knows obtaining 250,000 tulips of the right variety can be a challenge.
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Bulbs are planted in October of the year before Spring Blooms. Note the stakes that delineate the edges of each drift of bulbs. The bulbs are laid out at precise spacing first, then workers plant each bulb by hand—a long and laborious process. "We didn't like any of the bulb planting tools on the market for planting our bulbs into the Woodland Garden, so we designed and fabricated our own. It's superior and perfectly adapted to our efforts to plant hundreds of thousands of bulbs at the same time," explains Broadbent.
"We do have challenges with squirrels and deer," says Broadbent. "As soon as bulbs are in the ground we lay a wire mesh on top of soil that we'll leave in place all winter. It's a small mesh chicken wire with black coating so it doesn't show." The wire is finally removed when the season arrives. To keep deer from nibbling the tulips, "students set up hot wire every evening, then take it down first thing in the morning."
"The color palette of the Flower Garden Walk's borders is cool at the start, where blue and purple blend easily, then we add pink into the hot-color zones. We blend the pink, blue, and purple to accent the final border of white flowering bulbs beyond the circle." The care and attention to detail of the bulb varieties—their bloom color, time of bloom, and height—all must be considered during the earliest phase of this project.
"In the beginning we made trips to the Holland royal gardens of Keukenhof to learn from their world-famous bulb gardens." The bulb displays at Longwood certainly evoke the beauty and feel of the Dutch compositions that expertly manipulate bulb types, sequence of bloom, flower color, texture, and height of their nation's signature horticultural crop. Thanks to the efforts of the dedicated staff and students, Spring Blooms at Longwood Garden is a living work of art that offers every visitor an eye full of color at the end of a trying winter.
Learn more about the Spring Blooms at Longwood Gardens.