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13 January 2009

Life at Longwood



If I had to choose one word to sum up my experiences since arriving at Longwood, I would have to choose:.....wait, I'll think of one...ah...anyone got a thesaurus?

"Wow" is too predictable, as is the overused text abbreviation "OMG". I think I'm going to have to settle for a wordless, awestruck, utterly gobsmacked, chin bouncing off the turf, eyes big as Christmas turkey platters expression. And even that doesn't come close.

I arrived on a Friday, the day before I was scheduled to move into my new home on "The Row", as it's called. My dad and I decided to spend the day seeing the gardens and just as we pulled into the parking lot, it started to snow! Rather 'fairy tale', I thought. Since it was 80 below zero (or felt like, to this CA girl) we spent most of the time in the conservatory. Here again, words fail. I mean, honestly, look for yourself and tell me how you would describe this:





Trust me when I say it was much more impressive in person because even with pretty pictures to look at, you're not being assailed by the heavenly scent of 500 amaryllis, 800 lilies, and 300 narcissus, to name just a few of the 11,000 plants used in the conservatory displays. By the way, that red carpet you see....CRANBERRIES!!! Thousands of cranberries in 4" of water! Is that amazing, or what!? The rest of the gardens were equally festooned for Christmas. I especially enjoyed the trees outside the original farm house decorated with edible ornaments which were being greedily devoured by several furry critters.



Every view was magical. And what could be more romantic that starting this journey by standing in a conservatory surrounded by such exquisite beauty and looking out the frosted panes to see snow gently falling outside? I ask you! (by the way, thank you to Cat for giving me the fleece gloves - LOVE THEM!)



Our first day started off with our fearless leader, Mark, and meeting the rest of our classmates. We were introduced to each other and to some of the inner workings of Longwood, our course schedules, and various miscellaneous housekeeping type things. I wish I'd gotten a photo of all of us on our first day of school boarding the Omnibus (which we have christened The Short Bus!). And then we were thrown head first into classes: Principles of Horticulture, Modern Math for the Green Industry, Soil Science, History of Garden Design, Fruit and Vegetable Culture, and Floral Arranging.

Influenced by the second year PG students, we have begun to develop a loathe, hate relationship with Soils class, but it really isn't all that bad. If you've had 25 years of chemistry, that is!

On our second day (this is starting to sound like some kind of 12 days of Christmas song, isn't it? "On the second day of classes, Longwood gave to me a dinner party under an upside-down tree" C'mon, Sing along!)

In the Longwood restaurant where our welcome dinner was held, there suspended from the ceiling was an upside-down Christmas tree, fully decorated and twinkling down at us. I thought it was brilliant! The dinner was fabulous and we were graced with the presence of our aforementioned fearless leader, several of the dept. heads here at Longwood, and the Executive Director who is the youngest Exec. Director in Longwood's history. Basically, we were surrounded by horticultural genius and what a thrilling and humbling thing it was to look around the room and think, "I'm actually here!".

The rest of the time has gone by in a blur. Classes, homework (LOTS of homework), more orientation and peeling back the operational layers that make Longwood work like a Swiss watch, tours of production facilities (Oh, the Orchid greenhouse! Swoon, swoon!), meeting more incredibly talented staff, a pizza party with all the students, interns, and internationals, getting to know our fellow classmates better and generally having a ball.

Is that allowed? I mean, we were chosen from all the other applicants to take part in this awfully prestigious program at this awfully prestigious garden and not only are we learning things we would likely never learn anywhere else, but we're ENJOYING it! Don't get me wrong, we're working hard, but when you are given the gift of working in a field that you love, the labor isn't comprised solely of sweat and tears. There is joy and laughter and the wonder of discovery, too.

On the last night of the Christmas displays, one of my new friends and I strolled the gardens and conservatories, trying to take it all in. We stepped into the Ballroom just as the Organ Waltzes were beginning and as we loitered in the back of the room listening to the music, admiring the remarkable craftsmanship evident in every opulent corner of the room, we were transported back to the days when Pierre S. DuPont welcomed his friends and entertained them in that room. It was spellbinding, and we both wished we knew how to waltz! Walking back through the forest to our dorms, we both reflected that we've just woken up to a dream come true!

Mr. DuPont died long before I was born but he has certainly given me a priceless gift. And by the people here who believe in his philosophy of horticultural excellence, I definitely feel welcome. Sure, I miss "home" - my cute little apartment, all the familiar places and faces, my friends and my cat especially, but the other day as I was driving back from Trader Joe's (thank goodness for some familiar things!), it struck me. I'm really here. And I'm happy.

Thank you, Mr. DuPont. I hope I don't let you down!







1 comment:

David said...

I guess you know how Harry Potter felt when he got to Hogwarts.