Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania has a long-standing history of preservation, innovation and support of education and research. The most recent project at the horticulture center is focused on the widely-beloved orchid. 

A black and white photo of a man standing in a greenhouse filled with orchids

The history of orchids at Longwood begins with founder Pierre S. du Pont and his wife Alice. They were both founding members of the American Orchid Society. Beginning 100 years ago, the worldly collection grew with both domestic and international orchids. The orchid collection today comprises 5,000 plants of diverse origin, size and color. They represent 2,000 different taxa. It is now displayed in an original building on the property. 

Related: Ghost orchid among new plant species discovered in 2021

A greenhouse with orchids lined against the walls and a bench in the center

Appropriately named Orchid House, it reopened to the public in late February following an extensive and painstaking renovation. The project is part of Longwood Reimagined, a thoughtful transformation of the garden’s central 17 acres. 

“With the completion of the stately, thoughtfully reimagined Orchid House, we are demonstrating our commitment as stewards of this collection and these gardens,” said Paul Redman, director and CEO of Longwood Gardens. “As we preserve and enhance this treasured space, we have created an even better experience to enjoy our renowned orchid collection, so that we can continue to share the diversity, beauty and importance of our orchids with our guests long into the future.”

A greenhouse with orchids lining the walls with a bench in the center

The team at Longwood worked with John Milner Architects and Bancroft Construction Company to preserve the original structure as much as possible. To achieve this end, they meticulously removed damaged areas and rebuilt the display area with a focus on original components.

In addition to salvaging the best parts of the Orchid House, craftsmen painstakingly replicated all the iron trellises. They employed the same techniques used for thousands of years. The team rebuilt missing mosaic concrete in the traditional style with careful material selection and process to match the original design.

A bench sits in front of a wall of orchids

Furthermore, the historical preservation received a glass roof and walls for natural lighting and new interior lighting and displays. Each window frame was treated to characterize antique bronze. The original ornate display cases were refreshed and moved to a new location. Moreover, Orchid House is now temperature controlled. It also provides space for 50% more orchids than the previous location. And, there is room to grow in the future. 

A wall of purple potted orchids

Specifically, the Orchid House is curated by Greg Griffis, senior horticulturist and orchid expert at Longwood Gardens. He not only cares for the plants, but ensures they provide education to the public as well.

“We have been building and caring for our collection since the 1920s,” Griffis said. “Our restored Orchid House will enable us to better showcase the beauty and diversity of our notable collection, as well as continue to expand the collection and share these extraordinary plants with our guests for years to come.”    

+ Longwood Gardens

Images via Longwood Gardens