Longwood Garden members return to their beloved gardens

In another step toward a new normal, Longwood Gardens re-opened to members on Friday, June 26. In deference to health guidelines because of the COVID-19 pandemic, changes have been made to keep both guests and staff safe. The crowd size was kept to 35 percent of capacity to allow the staff to get used to new procedures, like contactless entry and ordering in the beer garden.

Masks must be worn inside and are strongly encouraged outside. Despite this advice, on Friday afternoon, many members strolled through the gardens without masks. New notices about narrow pathways and one-way arrows were ignored by many people, making social distancing challenging in some spaces.

Members stroll along one of the many paths at Longwood.

Still, the long walks through sculptured gardens, woods, and meadows lined with an explosion of summer flowers remain intact. Endless gardens feature the artistic combination of colors, sizes, and shapes. The familiar rush of water from the fountains is occasionally broken by musical chimes.

"Life these past months has been isolating and depressing," said Deborah Malloy, a member from Boothwyn. "This is delightful. It's nice to be in a beautiful place where you can relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the outdoors."

Food is available in the beer garden, where orders can be made over smartphones for contactless table-side delivery. A few opening day hitches in the app created lines at food stations. "We're still getting used to the new system," said a waiter while trying to find the correct table number to deliver a tray of food.

"We did miss the tulips," said Malloy while enjoying a snack in the Beer Garden. "But it's wonderful to be out here with friends, having a good time laughing together."

Longwood Gardens closed its doors to visitors on Friday, March 13.

Grass has been mown in stripes to illustrate the six-foot social distancing requirement for outdoors.

“Operating staff was reduced from 500 sets of hands caring for the gardens to 40,” said Paul Redman, Longwood’s CEO. “Longwood isn’t a building with four walls and a roof, where you can turn off the lights, lock the doors and walk away. It requires constant and continual care twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

“How we worked had to change immediately because we were so short-staffed. Pre-pandemic, each of our talented professionals could focus on their area of expertise. The pandemic opened up the door for these specialists to be far more collaborative. By doing other jobs they gained new insights.”

The closure was not without difficulty, he continued. “The most challenging part has been not having guests here and not having our full complement of students and staff. It was challenging and really difficult and depressing because this is why we're here.”

Longwood Gardens is open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets for non-members are expected to be available in about a week and a half. New this year, picnic totes for snacks, families and couples can also be ordered online. Reserve timed tickets at longwoodgardens.com.

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About Karen Myers

Karen Myers lives in Pocopson Township and has written for several local publications. A strong supporter of our community, Karen has served on several non-profit boards, such as Pocopson Elementary PTO, The United Way of Southern Chester County, Chester County Art Association and Tick Tock Early Learning Center. She received her M.B.A. from the University of Delaware and worked in marketing and operations with a focus on banking.

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