In the concrete jungle of Philadelphia, there are few places where you can lose yourself in the majesty of nature. Spring has sprung, and all the city has to offer are some scattered rows of malnourished daffodils and the occasional blooming dogwood. For those who hail from the countryside, perhaps one of the most disappointing deficiencies of the urban landscape is its utter lack of verdure. Though Penn Park promises to assuage this nostalgia when it opens in 2012, for now, those who long for a floral manifestation of the season’s advent have to venture out of city bounds. However, the 40-minute drive to Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens is well worth the trip. If your friends have a car on campus, beg them for a ride to Kennett Square. At $6 admission (for students with ID), the ticket price seems a trifle for access to the property’s impressive 1050 acres of flower gardens, topiaries, and fountains.
Longwood Gardens’ indoor conservatory is a must-see. Its greenhouse-style architecture showcases an array of rare and vivid exotic plants in natural light. Particularly of note is the Orchid Room, where over 200 different species hang artfully from pots suspended by iron rods. The experience is overwhelming, as the menagerie, encompassing every color of the rainbow, stretches from floor to ceiling. The month’s end marks the close of the Orchid Extravaganza exhibit, which will culminate in the International Orchid Show and Sale (March 27-29), which attracts collectors and vendors from across the globe. If the Gardens’ own exhibit is a mere taste of what will be on display this weekend, the event promises to be a true feast for the senses. But delicate blossoms are not all the grounds have to offer.
A few hundred yards’ walk from the entrance reveals a medieval-inspired tower and waterfall-encompassing moat, three elaborate apartment-sized tree houses, and two lakes. For the history buff, there’s a quaint cottage that houses an exhibit on its former resident and the Gardens’ founder, Pierre S. du Pont (yes, that du Pont). Thank heavens for that horticulture patron; this sanctuary is a true gem. Don’t miss the upcoming month’s bevvy of program offerings. Making Scents: The Art and Passion of Fragrance begins April 10th, and will feature in-depth looks at the science behind olfactory pleasures, not to mention a DIY perfume station. Longwood Gardens is sure to be the perfect destination for an afternoon adventure.