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Gardeners, Rejoice: Learn Everything Orchid Related from the Experts at Longwood Gardens

The great precipitator to spring is Longwood Gardens’ Orchid Extravaganza. Just as we succumb to cold-weather doldrums, the Kennett Square floral haven opens its doors for the annual display and we’re temporarily transported to a balmy respite. To begin the season properly ­– the first day of spring is in just a few days! – sneak in a visit to the Orchid Extravaganza before March 29. And if you visit between April 1 and April 4, get your hands on your own blooms at the Orchid Extravaganza Sale. Let’s be honest, once you lay eyes on their awe-inducing flowers, it’s pretty tough to leave empty-handed.

To get your floral fix, we chatted with Longwood Gardens’ in-house orchid grower and all-around horticulture enthusiast to get the scoop on everything orchid-related. Here, all the gardening know-how you need. Happy planting!

  1. Cultivating the best orchid display around is no easy feat. Greg Griffis, Longwood Gardens’ Orchid Grower, says, “We have five greenhouses that grow the collection and, basically, they’re broken down by climate zones—a warm dark house, a hot bright house, an intermediate house, a cool house and a part time house for Cymbidiums that eventually go outside.”
  2. Not all of the blooms are grown at Longwood Gardens, but a ton of them are. According to Griffis, there are 6,500 plants and 2,000 different varieties grown in the back house, of which he partially oversees: “We use brass tags that label every plant, so I know – doing what I do ­­– how to care for them.”
  3. There’s a reason the Orchid Extravaganza starts in January and ends at the end of March (besides being a winter escape); many types of orchids are in bloom at that time, enabling Longwood to showcase a variety of blooming orchids throughout the Conservatory—5,000 to be exact.
  4. What’s the one can’t-miss part of the Orchid Extravaganza according to a professional orchid grower? Griffis tells us it’s the Orchid Meadows, which houses some of the more unusual orchids. The standout: “Pleurothallis, the orchids in the meadow display, have heart shaped leaves with smaller flowers that generally grow up through the center of leaf. They’re not as showy, but very interesting,” says Griffis.
  5. If you visit Longwood Gardens between Wednesday, April 1 and Saturday, April 4, from 9am to 6pm, visit The GardenShop in the Visitor Center for the Orchid Extravaganza Sale. Orchids from the display are up for grabs! But hurry, the sale is only while supplies last!
  6. And if your gardening history is, um, morose, consider a low-maintenance orchid variation, like the Phalaenopsis, which blankets most of the Conservatory. To water them, Griffis suggests keeping them “a little moist and to only water once a week. People have good success re-flowering them.”
  7. Onto the vessel. Use a plastic pot or a terracotta pot—not a decorative one. “Orchids like to be ‘under-potted’ and like good drainage. Small, undersized pots, in an orchid bark mix of some kind.”
  8. Still stumped? No fear! Consider taking advantage of Longwood Gardens’ classes like Orchids for Beginners and Orchid Immersion. You’ll be channeling your inner Martha in no time.

Admission is $20 for adults, $17 for seniors (age 62+), $10 for students (ages 5 to 18 or with valid student ID) and free ages 4 and under.

For more information about the Orchid Extravaganza at Longwood Gardens, click here.