October 11, 2011

Living Exotica in the glasshouses of Longwood

A highland Nepenthes, a carnivorous pitcher plant from Borneo, grows in a corner, well established in a hanging teak basket.

 It was easy to believe that it was 1909, and that I was lost in the maze of 100 year old wood and glass greenhouses at Longwood Gardens, in Pennsylvania. These back greenhouses are what greenhouses are supposed to look like, the sort that we see in period films where the wealthy kept exotic black orchids and man eating plants. No man eating plants here, but I thought that I might share some of the images that struck me as interesting from our trip this past week to PA ( Lydia, our Irish Terrier was in a string of national dog shows, and the national terrier specialty this week).
Sometimes, the simplest of ideas can inspire us - I liked this thermometer box, protecting the device from the hot sun.

 X Brassolaeliocattleya Greenwich 'Misty Lime'  

This name may be a mouthfull, but once you disect its name, you can see where it came from. It is a what is known as an intergeneric cross between three species, here, a Brassavola, a Cattleya and a Laelia. Many growers abbreviate this name as Blc.  
The Cycad relative Encephalartos are investments for any collection, with even tiny plants selling for hundreds of dollars. This South African native is Encephalartos woodii, or Wood's Cycad, and it is nearly 14 feet in diameter.

Read on for more....

Lycopodium species are always unique, and make spectacular specimens. There were at least 6 interesting forms in the Longwood greenhouses.

Its been a long time since I've seed a crop of carnations being grown. I imagine that these are heirloom miniature varieties, grown for the DuPont estate, maybe even the same varieties from 1910. If anyone knows where I can get cutting of any carnation for my greenhouse beds, please share!

The cool-growing orchid, Bulbophyllum is typically a small, basket plant, but this species has me taking another look at the genus. Meet the giant Bulbophyllum macrobulbum. Macro bulbum indeed, as well as Macro Phyllum. Add to wish list please.

Many orchids were in bloom. Orchids bloom year round, but most species bloom in the autumn.  This Dendrochilum has long, dangling blossoms, and is common in many orchid collectors fall collections.

It was a treat to see these rare orchids, Gongora species. which have unique, pendant inforescences. They emerge from the bottom of the pot, and thus must be grown in hanging baskets. The flowers are scented like nutmeg or cardamon, and they often look like sheep skulls.

 Many orchids were in bloom. Orchids bloom year round, but most species bloom in the autumn, especially the large, fancy Cattleya orchids.
 I've added this plant to my wish list too - Cissus sicyoides. It is a native of Brazil, and it is a member of the grape family. It is a crazy vine, that produces these long aerial roots that can make a curtain-like structure in a greenhouse.

Another great idea. I grow this  Kalanchoe pumila in a hanging basket, but I never thought of growing it as a moss ball. Here, cutting are planted in a wire, moss-lined basket which I assume has potting soil deep inside. A plastic nursery pot in inserted in the top, so that the entire ball can be watered.


  1. Anonymous9:29 PM

    Longwood Gardens is magnificent and I try to visit it every time I am home. Great post. If you are interested in Bulbophyllums at all now, contact me. Check out Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis. I grow mine hot, shady and moist and they love it.

  2. Wonderful! The gongora is really a stanhopea though, just another crazy orchid person I guess...

    1. OF course you are correct - I guess I was just working off of my rather poor memory! Thanks!

  3. Hi Matt,

    I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before but I will repeat it again — your photography is exceptional but your posts are wonderful too.

    I frequent many botanical gardens but I have never had the pleasure of visiting the Longwood Gardens which look fabulous. The most impressively exotic is, of course, the highland Nepenthes which actually reminds me of a X-mas stocking.

    However, orchids are my passion and livelihood and so I couldn’t help focus on the blooming Cattleyas you presented. I’ve got 12 of those in various shades of pink and they are all breathtakingly beautiful all year round but most particularly during this fall season.

    By the way, I love your blog and I visit it frequently. I have also incorporated your link within my OrchidCare.org site as a valuable resource for my visitors. Would you be willing to return the favor by placing my link within your Blogs Worth Reading section?

    Many thanks,


    1. Thank you so much, Hanna. I've said it many times ( that I don't consider myself a photographer, but I a an artist, so I suppose, that 'eye' factors in.). Thanks again!

  4. I have been through this greenhouse a few times before, but never seen this hanging pitcher plant! For catching giant flies I suppose??

    Thanks for the tour! I have not made it to Longwood this year yet.

    1. The pitchers are tempting to insects, and perhaps bird droppings, mice and small amphibians as well.


It's always a good thing to leave a comment!