Winterthur and Longwood Gardens Give Kids a Smile


Winterthur Tulip House

Have a tour among the displays in the children’s gardens from some of the big name gardens in the greater Philadelphia area.

I visited both Winterthur and Longwood Gardens recently and both had a children’s garden. Check out the Morris Arboretum from last year and their exhibit Out on a Limb. It really is a hit with the kids.

We visited Winterthur on a day they were closed, so no children were at play in the garden, but I can imagine them running and laughing from one place to the next to experience what lies ahead.


Winterthur Faery Ring

The objective to designing for kids is having the features interactive and tickle the senses. Kids are very sensory beings and they relate through sight, hearing, especially touch, taste, smell and the act of play. They are curious and always on the move. Objects in a children’s garden must be scaled to little people and still have interest for the parents. They also must be designed so parents can keep an eye on the kids.

I have designed private children’s gardens so being creative is central, but keeping the kids safe is of most importance. The designer has to have a good feel for play and look at it from a child’s perspective. You never see the customary swing set and slide in these gardens – you see adventure.


Longwood Gardens

Kid’s like color, texture, sensory plants, and things to excite the imagination. Longwood Children’s garden appeals to adults as much or more than it does to kids and is very sophisticated.


Longwood Gardens Bird Fountain

The interactive displays were a tunnel like exhibit, The Grotto Cave, which had a fog-covered pool activated by water that dripped from ornate snakes coiled above.  The adults had to crouch down to pass through.

The railing of the ramp has water that kids could redirect. Water runs down the rail to be swallowed up by a salamander at the bottom of the ramp. I did not see kids interacting with this exhibit unfortunately.


Longwood Gardens Pelican Fountain

The Bamboo Maze has tree-size bamboo to tickle the imagination. Five visitor-activated water features accented with ornate birds like shown above and below were throughout.

My favorite water feature at the Grotto Cave I could not photograph because it popped water up to a spot at the top of the feature really fast. There was no way to anticipate when it would do it either. Kids were mesmerized. I also love the pelicans blowing bubbles.


Longwood Gardens Bird Family Fountain

All the fountains at Longwood Gardens were really fun in some way.


Winterthur Enchanted Bridge

At Winterthur, kids had a large area to explore with many fun structures. Their garden is called the Enchanted Woods garden and a child is made to feel like they are at the beginning of “Once Upon a Time”. They cross a magical bridge, all the while wary of trolls lurking beneath. This is a land where fairies brought in all the crumbling columns, broken balustrades and forgotten millstones.


Winterthur Faery Cottage

The Faerie Cottage furniture is all scaled to kids, making a haven for them.


Winterthur’s Enchanted Woods

The magical mushroom ring above has a sign that says, “never step into a fairy ring,” because if they do they can be whisked off to fairyland in a puff of mist. I don’t think kids could help themselves from stepping inside to see what would happen. I can see them looking down at their feet to see if they will disappear.


Sapphire Berry tree

The kids can operate the pump, below. I hope you enjoyed the creative displays and felt like a kid yourself again. Play is important in all our lives.


Kids’ outdoor water trough.

Next, we look at the gardens around the main Winterthur house. Formal design at its lavish and decorated best.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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49 Responses to Winterthur and Longwood Gardens Give Kids a Smile

  1. I certainly see lots of adventure here!

  2. It definitely looks like a wonderful place to visit with my family. I am sure my kids would really enjoy spending a few hours there. As a matter of fact I have made a note in my phone of places to check out with the family this summer! Thanks for sharing Donna.

  3. I enjoy exploring children’s gardens too especially watching the discovering on the kids faces and they interact. I love the magic mushroom ring and the tulip house. You can never go wrong with water and kids they are just drawn to it.

    • So true. In design, water is one of the trickiest things to be careful of though. Kids are so creative in getting into trouble around it. Can you imagine growing up having this wonderland all around you?

  4. Debra says:

    When I taught kids they rarely used the slide as intended. It was just a prop for other things: a battlefield HQ or a castle, etc. They also always wanted to go up it instead of down. I just love this children’s garden — a place for the mind and imagination as well as the senses. =D Great photos as always …

  5. I want a play hut just like that one in the first photograph to go in my backyard.:)

  6. It surely looks fun in those garden. I specially like the hut. I can imagine the kids playing in it. 🙂

  7. I loved it, there again I am still waiting to grow up.

  8. I love this, especially the tulip house. One thing CBG is missing is a children’s garden, they had one but dismantled it.

  9. Phil Lanoue says:

    That’s looks like a great space and the fountains are amazing!

  10. A.M.B. says:

    Great post! My kids love the children’s garden at Longwood Gardens. They didn’t play with the water as much the last few times we went (it was too cold outside, though warm in the conservatory), but they had a great time splashing around last summer. I just tweeted you a picture of my kids at the salamander ramp since you didn’t get to see any kids interact with it on this last visit.

    • Thank you. It is such a great photo of your children, one Lockwood should use for a promo. I was sad kid’s were not playing with it like in your photo. Have they been to Morris yet? The tree house was a treat for me and I can just believe kids would love it too. No kids when I was there.

  11. It’s just not fair. You keep rubbing your fantastic images of a magical place. So glorious!

    • Thank you. It is not possible to get bad photos at a public garden even in bad sunlight. There is just so much of interest everywhere one turns. I have to admit though, as much as I like photography, I never really pay much attention to getting good shots in gardens. It is because of the time of day I always visit (when they are open to the public during business hours). I just kinda snap and snap.

  12. Beautiful Captures:) I could so release my inner child here! Have a Great One

  13. Love places such as this great shots

  14. Sharon says:

    LOVED this post! Thank you 🙂

  15. Fergiemoto says:

    What a delightful post! It looks like a wonderful place for kids to visit.

  16. Graziella says:

    The first two pictures are amazing! That’s what I would call a fairy garden 🙂

  17. catmint says:

    hi Donna, I love this garden. I want a childrens garden for me as well, as a big kid! Why should the children be the only ones to enjoy magic and creativity and playfulness? Anyway that is what I am aiming to provide for my little grandsons – a place for adventure. Being winter it gets dark early, so every time they come lately we go into the dark garden with torches – it’s hard to say who enjoys this more, them or me.

  18. A couple of summers ago we camped at a site where drinking water taps had been set into living trees. It was great fun filling the kettle from these magical taps.

  19. Looks like a fun place to be! It may have been even more fun for the designers to create such a space.

    • Designing spaces like this is much fun. I did one on architecture school before I was in the profession and developed a love of playful architecture early in my career. I can imagine being a creative designer on these estates.

  20. The Winterthur children’s garden really is enchanting. I think you may have called Longwood Lockwood by mistake.

  21. I am a kid at heart and would love these gardens…I can’t wait to visit mor gardens especially these 2.

  22. My husband and I spent a weekend exploring the lovely gardens of Longwood and Winterthur and chose the Inn at Montchanin Village as our base. We had a lovely stay and would definitely recommend it for others seeking lodging in the area. After a full Saturday exploring Winterthur, we arrived at the Inn in the afternoon and were quickly whisked (by golf cart!) to our room in one of the converted row of homes. I decided to indulge in a massage before dinner and enjoyed the spa facility. Because we had a full day, we were grateful that there was such a great restaurant on site. The Krazy Kat was fantastic and I thought well-priced for the nice menu and ambiance. It’s very nice to be able to indulge in a little more wine and just walk back to the room! As for the room, I thought it was tastefully and thoughtfully arranged. The shower (I am a stickler for a good shower) was lovely and I liked the Frette linens. All in all, a sophisticated, unique place to base our stay during our garden-exploring weekend.

  23. Brian Comeau says:

    It’s funny that my kids love gardens and to garden with my wife because it was never my thing but going to a place like this might be just the thing to engage kids at a young age and get them started. Pretty cool! Thanks for sharing the pics Donna.

  24. I think *I* would have a lot of fun here; so much for the kids!

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