The Illuminating Lens

Longwood Gardens – My Search for the Himalayan Blue Poppy – Kennett Square, PA – Part 1 – 2020

In early 2020 after visiting a couple of botanical gardens in Arizona, I decided to make the trip up to Pennsylvania to my favorite garden in the US,…

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. I made my hotel reservations, rented a vehicle, and booked a flight into Philadelphia for the second week in March.

My Goal

My goal was to see and shoot the Himalayan Blue Poppies that Longwood Gardens is very famous for. They bloom for a very short time in the spring and they are displayed inside in the Conservatory.

Why blue poppies? As a child, I remember my mother had huge flower gardens when we lived in upper state New York. Among all the other flowers she grew from bulbs and seeds, the Icelandic and California Poppies were some of my favorites. They were brightly colored and delicate looking! Having moved to Florida when I was about 10 years old, we never had those northern, cold-loving flowers again. So, years later when I saw images of the Himalayan Blue Poppies and I heard that Longwood Gardens grew them, I knew I had to get to see them one spring. Since I was now retired I had much more freedom to make it up there at the right time.

The Problem

The problem was, as with all blooming things, the time that they bloom is not specific. Since I was traveling there from Florida I wanted to narrow it down. I called the gardens and they were not willing to give me a specific time. The person did direct me to their website where they have a chart showing the dates they were blooming for the last several years. So I picked a range of dates that were pretty much in the middle and crossed my fingers that I would hit it right!

As the time drew near the talk about Covid 19 became more and more intense but they were still not saying that it was a major deal at that point. So, on March 10th, I flew to Philadelphia.

As soon as I arrived in Kennett Square I headed to Longwood Gardens. They had some initial procedures set up for hand sanitizing and social distancing but were still allowing full access, so I purchased an annual pass (cheaper since I would be going back in for 4 days ).

The early spring flowers were still not too plentiful in the outdoor gardens so I knew I would be spending much of my time in the conservatory and greenhouses. I decided to keep my distance from others just to be on the safe side… masks were not a thing at that point.

The Search

I went hunting for the Himalayan Blue Poppies but I could not find them. Don’t think that I was only going to shoot them…I spent plenty of time shooting daffodils, freesia, lilies and so much more! The plant managers frequently make changes in the conservatory so I wanted to shoot as much as I could as I saw it! My Part 2 blog post will be about all the other flowers.

As always, being the stubborn person that I am, I walked around trying to find the poppies myself but finally realized that a huge display of them was nowhere to be found. So, I located a docent at the information desk and asked her about the Himalayan Blue Poppies. She told me that the plant managers had decided to hold all the poppy plants in the back until they had a good number of them blooming before they put them on display.

I assumed this was because they needed a very large display to accommodate as many photographers as possible at once as they are so popular. I was so disappointed! But, she said they had just put out a single pot of poppies that were blooming, over on the sidewalk to one of the side rooms.

The Find

She walked me over to them and I was so surprised that I had missed them but they were on the route I would have taken out of the conservatory.

Anyway, I did get to see and shoot those few Himalayan Blue Poppies for the next several days.

There were several plants in that one pot so I tried to get an image of all the flowers in the different stages of blooming.

I came back to the poppies several times each day to get them in different light.

I shot from above and underneath the flowers. Yes, I even laid down on the sidewalk for a few minutes!

I made some images with my iPhone. It worked well for these kind of shots!

iPhone Xs image

The iPhone Portrait mode with Stage Lighting actually worked pretty well to eliminate the distracting leaves and background!

iPhone Xs image using portrait mode and stage lighting

The Closing

It was not the massive display that I had hoped for but I had been very lucky to see even this one pot of poppies because on the evening of my third day in PA, I received an email from the gardens (since I was now an annual pass holder) and they had decided to close the gardens the following day due to the fears of Covid spreading. They were totally closed for many weeks. All those beautiful poppies, as well as all their spring flowers, were only seen by some of the staff. They did release some virtual videos and images on their Facebook page while they were closed!

So I had been successful in my search albeit somewhat limited. I can now say I have seen and shot Himalayan Blue Poppies! The images I have do make me smile!

For the rest of the very gorgeous Longwood Gardens! More to come in my Part 2!

To see larger versions of these images, click on any image. For additional images of the poppies and so much more, please visit my 2020 Gallery.

Also, please visit my Late Spring Longwood Gallery and my Autumn Longwood Gallery for more of what Longwood Gardens offers for the different seasons!

That is all for now!


Lynn Wiezycki

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