I got engaged at Longwood Gardens. It’s no surprise to anyone who knows my husband that he would pick a garden to choke out the words, “Will you marry me?” He needed all the strength of those blooms, majestic trees and buzzing insects to carry him through such a challenging ordeal. So, we got engaged on a cold day in February, which inside the greenhouses of Longwood Gardens, felt like a sunny day in May.
Longwood consists of palatial indoor conservatories and acres of paths. If you actually happen to visit in May, you’ll gulp in astonishment over the soaring Japanese Pauwlina trees with their delicate lavender petals hanging like bayou vines. There are 1050 acres of woodlands and meadows in what was originally an arboretum. It was purchased by Henry du Pont to save plots full of rare tree specimens.
Close by lush and soothing Longwood Gardens is the Winterthur Country Estate. This museum-style property sits in the middle of its extraordinary grounds like a dowager inspecting her audience. Surrounded by acres of grand gardens, gazebos and benches, I can’t help but wonder what it was like to be this wealthy. Lucky for us, du Pont put his money into beautifying and preserving his environment. The man loved his gardens and old growth forest so much that he instructed local firefighters to save the trees first before the house. Fortunately, there was never a fire.
A tour of his home and surrounding grounds offers a peek into the lives of one the American “captains of industry.” I know my kids would love the fairy tale garden, part of the 60 acres of naturalistic magic.
Both Longwood Gardens and Winthurtur are located in Brandywine Valley, Delaware, close to the border of New Jersey. Rustic, ruby red barns speckle the countryside, and towering oaks shade the roads. Gnarly magnolia and ancient birch trees, their branches resembling curling witches fingers, festoon the lawns of many houses.
Brandywine Valley is halfway between New York and Washington and boasts numerous quaint bed and breakfasts and country inns dotting the rolling hills. There are dozens of antique shops and boutiques, along with upscale dining in the village. Before you leave Brandywine Valley, take one more tour. This one is less highbrow and certainly more decadent: Herr’s Potato Chip factory offers tours and tastes of their snack products. Bon Appetit!