Tropical greenhouse opens at Longwood Gardens

January 17, 1993|By New York Times News Service

A steamy bit of South America is flourishing in southeastern Pennsylvania with the opening of a new Cascade Garden by the Brazilian landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx at Longwood Gardens. The garden, which opened last week, features tropical plants, especially bromeliads, set amid cascading streams in a greenhouse roughly 40 by 50 feet at the western end of the 3.5-acre conservatory complex. The project was a collaboration between Mr. Burle Marx and Conrad Hamerman, a landscape architect in Philadelphia.

Bromeliads, which include such plants as pineapples and Spanish moss, absorb moisture through hairlike scales covering their leaves. In the Cascade Garden, fog emitters spray mists to maintain 80 percent humidity; 3,000 feet of heating cable wound through the beds and in the walls and structural columns keep the plants' roots above 60 degrees. The designers were inspired by the runnels of water that trickle down tropical mountainsides, Mr. Hamerman said, but he said the garden was "an abstraction of nature, not an imitation." Steel columns and other structural elements of the greenhouse, which was built in 1958, played a big role in the garden's design, which has a strong vertical sweep.

The garden has nearly 150 varieties of tropical plants. Some were imported from Brazil, but large plants or those needed in great quantities were bought from nurseries in Florida or California or grown there by special order.

A small exhibit of Mr. Burle Marx's artwork is on view in Longwood's Music Room through Jan. 24.

The Cascade Garden is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Longwood Gardens is on U.S. Route 1 two miles east of Kennett Square, Pa.; (215) 388-6741. Admission is $10, $2 for children 6 to 14 and free for those under 5.

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