Thursday, January 6, 2011

Longwood Magic

Longwood Gardens, the incredible horticultural legacy of Pierre du Pont, is in my neck of the woods. It's only around 2o miles away, but that's far enough to keep from from visiting regularly. Walking through the various gardens and the Conservatory is such a treat for all the senses, especially at Christmas-time. For years I have been meaning to see the Christmas display, but something has always come up to interfere with my intentions.

I finally made the time for a visit this week.

My arrival was timed perfectly with the beginning of one of the fountain displays choreographed to a selection from The Nutcrakcer. Everybody who had gathered was completely transfixed.

The Conservatory was lush and wonderful with seasonal plantings. Every single bloom that I saw was pure perfection.

One part of the Conservatory that I especially wanted to see was the Cascade Garden.
Around 20 years ago when I first moved to the Philadelphia area, I played a small role in the design and construction of this garden. The schematic design had been prepared by Roberto Burle Marx, the world renowned landscape architect from Brazil who has since passed away. The design development, preparation of construction documents and construction supervision was coordinated by Burle Marx's USA representative, Conrad Hamerman, a landscape architect from Philadelphia. Conrad needed some part time help; I wanted some part time work, and I ended up working on the Cascade Garden.
One of my tasks was to work out some of the fountain details. I drew up the construction details for the 'scuppers' and the water basins to get the effects that Burle Marx and Conrad wanted- attractive flow of water, soothing sounds and minimal splashing.
Conrad and I made several trips to the quarry that supplied the stones so that we could hand select those stones that would be in prominent locations. With Conrad directing, we then worked on site with the mason to ensure that the stones fit together with tight joints and a 'natural' rhythm of sizes and shapes. Conrad's discriminating eye and unrelenting expectation of excellence ensured that the installation was beautiful. It takes a lot of hard work to make something look natural.
It felt satisfying to see the garden after so many years.
If you're in my neck of the woods, you might want to consider visiting Longwood.

It's a magical place.

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