Home > Uncategorized > Week 5: I Visit Longwood Gardens Orchid Extravaganza with my 13-Year-Old Son

Week 5: I Visit Longwood Gardens Orchid Extravaganza with my 13-Year-Old Son

A tree of orchids

Ian standing beside a tree of orchids.

For the past few winters, I’ve wanted to go see Longwood Gardens Orchid Extravaganza, but I’ve never gotten there. So, when I saw a Groupon for a half-price ticket to Longwood through March–while the Orchid display is going on–I grabbed it. My original thought was to invite a friend to accompany me, knowing that my husband and son wouldn’t be too keen on this flower-filled activity. However, when last weekend rolled around and I was contemplating phoning a friend, it occurred to me that while I was gone my son would most likely spend the day playing on his XBox.  So I made the only possible decision a responsible parent could: I opted to have him accompany me instead of a friend.

The first challenge of the day was this: How do you convince a 13-year-old boy to visit an Orchid Extravaganza? You don’t mention the word  “orchid” of course.  To be safe, I also steered clear of the word “extravaganza,” fearing it might sound a bit girly.  I mean, there might be a video game extravaganza out there somewhere, but just in case…

I told him it was a botanical garden. And while he’d never been to Longwood, we’d visited the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh last year and we all enjoyed it.  So, to my surprise he willingly agreed to come along. The same cannot be said for my husband who, loathe to spend a day gazing at orchids, opted out.

As it turned out, my son and I had a terrific time. The last time I went to Longwood Gardens, my 19-year-old daughter was in a stroller, so let’s figure it’s been about 18 years. I remember very little about that first visit, and I believe we spent most of our time viewing the outside gardens.  This time, it was a cold, windy day, and there wasn’t much to see outside, as far as I could tell, so we spent the entire time in the conservatory.  It was surprisingly kid-friendly. Now, anyone who has a 13-year-old knows that when something is kid-friendly it’s usually suitable  for a 5-year-old, not a  young teen.  But the displays at Longwood were so varied and interesting and beautiful, that they would appeal to almost anyone.

My son offered to be the photographer for the day, which is good because he is a better photographer than I am.  Here’s a picture of my favorite feature:

 This is a fountain that periodically shoots out a ball of water that is jettisoned up to the bell above it. When the water hits the bell, it dings! You can see how beautiful everything is–so perfectly designed and appealing both from a color and balance standpoint. You can also see that the Orchid Extravaganza wasn’t just about orchids. There were thousands of orchids there, to be sure, but there were many, many other plants and flowers, as well. Not all of them exotic. In this photo there are hydrangeas and daffodils, vividly colorful. Who wouldn’t love to have a garden like this, even without the cool fountain?

To the right is a photo of my son’s favorite part:

This is an area of the main conservatory that features a sunken marble floor, flooded with water to create a reflective garden. Here, you can see islands of orchids and ferns. As my son noted, it’s very beautiful and peaceful. I also had to look twice to make sure it was actually water and not just a shiny marble floor.  

Our favorite photo of the day! A stunning rose.

  All in all it was a great trip. If you’ve never been, or if it’s been a very long time since you’ve visited Longwood Gardens, I definitely recommend it. I worried I’d be disappointed going in the winter, because none of the outdoor gardens are blooming. But, there was still so much to see. We spent two hours wandering through the different parts of the conservatory, and I felt I could have even spent a bit longer (my son had had enough, at that point, and we did see everything).
The best part of all, though, was that while we were there it felt like spring.
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