The North American Clivia Society held its annual show and an international conference at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, last week. We drove over from home with friends, about 600 miles and about 12 hours of driving. We stayed at the conference hotel, just down the road from Longwood. No pictures, because my camera battery ran down after one shot.
Longwood Gardens is a former DuPont family estate, and the Longwood Foundation retains about 1000 acres for the gardens. It is only about 10 minutes drive from another famous old DuPont family estate, Winterthur Gardens and Museum, just outside of Wilmington, Delaware.
Longwood's main attraction for me is the huge conservatory. There are multiple rooms and connecting passages, all under glass, and some of the rooms are huge. There are masses of tropical plants and flowers. I was particularly impressed to see the Himalayan Blue Poppy, a Meconopsis species, in bloom in several spots. There were orchids everywhere, masses of Clivia in full bloom, banks of Cineraria in bloom, and some Strelitzia reginae 'Mandela's Gold' in bloom. This was the first time I'd ever seen Longwood, and I have to say that it's a spectacular conservatory.
Longwood's staff have been working on breeding Clivia for over 30 years. Former research director Dr. Robert Armstrong returned from his retirement in Hawaii to describe the program's beginnings for the NACS members. They have developed an outstanding yellow miniata, 'Longwood Debutante', and are now working on a line of crested flowered clivias. In Clivia, the NACS handbook calls these "keeled" while the American Hemerocallis Society has adopted the term "crested" for similar daylily flower structures. Both words describe the same thing, petals that have a raised flap or ridge along the midrib.
James Abel came from Pretoria, South Africa, to talk to the NACS group about the natural habitats of the six species of Clivia in their homes in South Africa. Researchers at Blomfontein University are trying to determine whether there are in fact six true species or only two, one of which is extrememly variable. That ought to make for some interesting arguments! For the record, the six species (if there are six!) are caulescens, gardenii, miniata, mirabilis, nobilis, and robusta.
We had a backstage tour of the research greenhouses. Because they regularly need huge numbers of hard-to-get flowers, they have their own tissue culture propagation labs. They also constantly run trials on new and unusual species and varieties of plants for possible display in the conservatory or in the outdoor flower beds. If you've never been to Longwood Gardens, you should visit the next time you are in the New York-Washington, DC, area.
Good gardening, from here in central Indiana
Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology