Travel Tales from The Hub

Holiday Visit to Longwood Gardens

Ken Hubbard

By Ken Hubbard

A Quick look At the History Of Longwood Gardens

The history of Longwood Gardens started with the Native Lenni Lenape tribe who planted fields and hunted the woods for thousands of years. By the early 1700’s the Pierce family purchased 402 acres and started farming the land. Later in the century when the grandsons inherited the property they started planting an arboretum that would end up covering about 15 acres. In the mid 1800’s the property became known nationwide for its collection of tree species as well as a place for people to gather. Eventually the property began to fall into disrepair due to the lack of interest from the surviving family members and by 1906 was bought by a lumber company to harvest the timber.

© Ken Hubbard
Tamron 18-200mm Di II VC – F/11, 1/500th. ISO 400 @ 22mm

That’s when Pierre S. du Pont stepped in and purchased the land to preserve the trees and to host gatherings for his family and friends. Over the years with his growing interest in horticulture, he ended up creating one of the country’s leading horticultural display gardens. By the time Pierre died in 1959, he "had in place a well-funded yet adaptable mechanism for Longwood to continue." Today, Longwood Gardens is known as one of the premier horticultural gardens in the United States and covers about 1,077 Acres.

© Ken Hubbard
Tamron SP 90mm Di VC USD – F/3.5, 1/1000th. ISO 1600 @ 90mm (Hand Held)

Fully Decorated For The Holidays

Throughout the year Longwood Gardens ( puts on many colorful displays that hi-light the different seasons. Starting in January with its amazing Orchid Extravaganza that features 4,500 orchids to the Spring Bloom with more than 240,000 tulips. There is always something to see and photograph while strolling the grounds and conservatory no matter what time of year it is. In the late fall Longwood opens its doors on Thanksgiving weekend to showcase its “A Longwood Christmas” display, which runs through the 1st week of January.

© Ken Hubbard
Tamron SP 24-70mm Di VC USD G2 – F/8, 1/3rd sec.. ISO 800 @ 30mm

During this year's holiday season the garden grounds and conservatory were transformed into a French themed display, with more than a half a million lights strung amongst the trees, flowers and plants. Longwood also created a floating display consisting of thousands of cranberries, apples and gilded walnuts representing a French parterre garden. There are also 50 plus trees decorated in the tradition of the holiday as well as uniquely creative ways like using dessert plants to build a towering Christmas tree.

© Ken Hubbard
Tamron SP 24-70mm Di VC USD G2 – F/8, 1/6th Sec., ISO 800 @ 24mm

© Ken Hubbard
Tamron SP 24-70mm Di VC USD G2 – F/8, 1/6th. ISO 800 @ 24mm

Entrance to the gardens is on a timed basis during this time of year, so I would suggest that you go in the later afternoon about an hour or two before sunset. This way, you can see the beauty of Longwood both in the daylight and then at night when the sun sets and all the twinkling lights turn on.

I started this past visit by going to the conservatory while the sun was still up and made my way through all the different rooms and side corridors, if you take as many images as I did, this will take you at least a few hours. Just remember that the conservatory does not allow tripod use in the afternoon so you will have to capture all your images hand-held. Once you have made your way through all the rooms of the conservatory and the sun has set, it's time to walk the garden paths that are aglow with colorful lights.

© Ken Hubbard
Tamron SP 24-70mm Di VC USD G2 – F/16, 1/20th. ISO 200 @ 24mm

© Ken Hubbard
Tamron SP 24-70mm Di VC USD G2 – F/5.6, 1/8th. ISO 1600 @ 46mm

Longwood is the perfect place for a family portrait and to use for your holiday cards, so make sure you bring the family along on your visit. With so many different rooms and backgrounds to choose from you can have a traditional lights and ornaments theme or pretend you are in a rain forest with the giant trees of the Palm House room. To make it a little easier capturing a good family portrait I would try to go on a weekday avoiding the crowds during the peak hours and weekends. Also, bring a flash, just in case you need to add a little bit of light to your subjects

© Ken Hubbard
Tamron SP 24-70mm Di VC USD G2 – F/8, 1/20th. ISO 200 @ 60mm + speedlight flash

Tamron Lenses used for this Article
18-200mm Di II VC (B018)
SP 24-70mm Di VC USD G2 (A032)
SP 90mm Di VC USD (F017)