Longwood Gardens reopens to the public – with an added surprise

[ All photos and article by Rick Pettine ]

July 9, 2020 (update July 13) – Kennett Square, PA — OK, let’s face it – the past few months have sucked! While being quarantined in our homes with very limited entertainment venues operating, we had to find creative ways to occupy our free time, as we painfully await live concerts, sporting events, theater shows, and other social establishments to resume.

Hopefully we will be able to experience our favorite group events in the near future, and Independent Philly will be right there with you! In the meantime, you can now visit an oasis of nature in the “backyard” of Philadelphia – Kennett Square to be exact. Longwood Gardens is that oasis, and it has recently reopened to the public!

The incredible grounds of Longwood Gardens span approximately 1,100 acres containing thousands of species of plants and trees, as well as over 1,700 spectacular fountains, water lily ponds, Italian Garden, a grotto, and a beer garden and restaurants (with limited outdoor dining currently.)

During a recent visit, I had the opportunity to speak with Abbey Gau, Longwood’s Marketing and Communications Specialist. ” We are thrilled to be open for all guests, as our Gardens are a place of pleasure and respite. Think fresh air, flowers, and fountains!”

And right now is an exceptional time to visit and witness a rare living exhibit! “We’re thrilled to announce that our titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), also known as the corpse flower, is preparing to bloom any day now!”, Abbey added. “Once it begins to fully open, the plant, affectionately named Sprout, will only bloom for 24 to 48 hours, giving guests a limited time to experience this unique phenomena.”

“Often called the rock star of the plant world, titan arums are known for their putrid smell when in bloom—often likened to the stench of rotting meat. The odor is most potent after the bloom initially opens, which occurs at night into the early morning. The rich, burgundy inflorescence also generates heat, which allows the stench to travel farther. In nature, this combination of heat and smell efficiently attracts pollinators, such as dung and carrion beetles, from across long distances.”

“Guests can tune in to the Sprout live stream to track its growth (currently 6 feet and growing up to 6″ a day), and we are offering extended hours for the next few days for guests to get a whiff of the magnificent beast!”

UPDATE: Sprout bloomed the evening of July 13, 2020! (and Independent Philly was there!)

So just how do you maintain such a sprawling and living environment in a pandemic? Gau explained, “Over the past several months during the pandemic, the care of the Gardens was an inter-departmental effort. Throughout the closure, our staff came together to help care for our Gardens, with an all-hands-on-deck commitment to pitching in on vital projects to keep our Gardens healthy, and for that we are immensely proud.”

Longwood Gardens made the decision in April to cancel all special concerts and performances through September 30 in compliance with government guidelines prohibiting the gathering of large crowds, however they hope to resume a steady series of outdoor concerts and events in 2021.

“We have implemented new visiting guidelines in accordance with state and local regulations”, Gau reassured. “This includes requiring face masks in both indoor and outdoor public spaces, and substantially limiting our admission capacity to 35% of our normal capacity to ensure guests have plenty of space to enjoy the gardens. And in addition to hand sanitizing stations located throughout the Gardens for guests, our staff is following all local, state and federal guidelines by continually sanitizing and disinfecting contact surfaces and deep cleaning restrooms and other high traffic areas throughout the day.”

“Guests can stay connected through our new online portal, Our Gardens Your Home. This virtual experience enables viewers to discover what is going on in our Gardens through the form of stunning imagery of what was in bloom, engaging activities for all ages, and special moments expressing our mission of horticulture, education, and the arts.”

Thirsty for more? Check out the album below for just a taste of the beauty you can experience now at Longwood!

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