A Longwood Retrospective. Part One: Arrival and First Impressions of the Great Outdoors.

The journey which Phil and I made from Japan to the U.S. was epic to say the least. Having left Awaji Island in a taxi bound for Shin Kobe Station at around 7am on April 31st, we then had a quick catch up with Mori san before catching our Shinkansen to Tokyo, arriving around midday. Twelve hours, one final garden and one delicious goodbye meal with a dear Japanese friend later we were on a 00:05am May 1st flight bound for Seattle. Nine and a half hours or so later we touched down in Seattle, arriving, according to local time, before we had even left Japan! I had a little bit of a sticky situation with the U.S. border control as some of the paperwork accompanying my VISA was in my checked baggage (I was sent from the customs office down a special elevator to the baggage reclaim with strict instructions to retrieve my suitcase but ‘under no circumstance to attempt to open it’) but luckily they were satisfied and a little more kind and pleasant to me once they’d seen what they’d wanted to see. After a gruelling seven hours killing time at Seattle airport we then caught a second flight – get this – at 00:05am on May 1st – exactly the same time that we had left Japan 16 hours earlier. To say that this messed with my head would be something of an understatement – I think I’ll leave the time travelling to Doctor Who. I remember making a Facebook post at the time with this screen shot of all the different time zones I was trying to work and think my way through.


A short (3 hour), uncomfortable and turbulent internal Delta airways flight later we were in Minneapolis St Paul’s airport with another 2 1/2 hours of time to kill before we caught our final flight to Philadelphia airport. Another 3 hour flight later and we touched down at Philadelphia airport at a bright and early 10:30am, having already gone some 42 hours without sleep. Janet Bagnell and our U.S. TRIAD friend Nick Giaquinto kindly collected us from the airport and took us for an early lunch at Chick-fil-A, a fried chicken, fast food establishment which is marks above the infamous KFC.

Then finally we arrived at Longwood Gardens and had our first glimpse of Red Lion Row, an onsite street of semi-detached 3- and 4- bedroomed houses which we be sharing with 40 or so other students and interns. Rather charming I think you’ll agree…

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After a trip to the local food store, Giant, for a few groceries, and a couple of hours free to begin unpacking our cases it was time to meet some of the other students at a pizza party on the Row. Wonderful though it was to meet these lovely people by the time I left the party at around 9pm I was so tired I couldn’t have told you a single person’s name from that evening. By that point I was on 53 hours without sleep so I guess that’s not really too surprising. Needless to say, I slept well that night!

The next day Doug Needham and Brian Trader took Phil and I out for lunch at The Whip, a local English-style pub. I guess they thought we may be craving a little taste of England after 4 months away in Japan – I wasn’t (Japanese food is awesome) but the lunch was delicious and very welcome nonetheless.

Then I had the afternoon free and I had my first chance to experience the glorious Longwood Gardens for myself. I’ve chosen not to go into a great deal of information about the history of the gardens as the Longwood Gardens website covers this in detail. If you’re interested to know more about one of the garden areas covered below then may I point you in the direction of this excellent webpage http://longwoodgardens.org/gardens/browse-all-gardens

I’d heard a lot about the tulip display on the Flower Garden Walk so this was the first place I headed and I was simply blown away by the beauty of the display.

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The tulips were so popular with Longwood guests that I had to return one evening later in the week to take some vista photograph sans personne.

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The Flower Garden Walk wasn’t the only area of the garden where tulips were the flavour of the moment – the Trial Garden was also choc full of these bright and beautiful flowering bulbs. I loved the ways they’d been planted in ribbons and swirls.

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From here I wandered through Pierce’s Wood where the Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud) and Cornus florida (flowering dogwood) were flowering their pretty cerise-pink socks off above a forest floor carpeted in blue (Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells)) with accents of white (Trillium grandiflorum).

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Next stop was the beautiful Italian Water Garden, said to be inspired by the fountains at Villa Gamberaia near Florence, Italy.

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Elsewhere in the gardens there was plenty more to enjoy, including lakes, tree houses (more about these in a future blog post), a topiary garden, an idea garden, a trial garden, further fountains and a vast meadow. Although all gardens change with the seasons, the gardens at Longwood seemed to change with every blink of an eye. Partly I guess this is to do with the climate and the time of year, but mostly it is to do with the high attention to detail (I challenge you to find a weed or a flower in need of deadheading!) and the frequent turnover of plants in many areas. The planting displays simply never look tired – they are indefatigably exuberant. Some of the photos below were taken on my first day in the gardens, others were taken over the course of the next couple of weeks as areas like the Wisteria Garden came into their own.

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