By Jan Carabeo

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. (CBS) — A big day at Longwood Gardens. Its $250 million expansion project gets underway today.

It’s hard to imagine, but Longwood Gardens is about to get bigger, better and even more beautiful.

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“There’s no other conservatory in the world like this,” Longwood Gardens President and CEO Paul Redman said.

Longwood Gardens is embarking on what it’s calling its most ambitious project in a century — $250 million to transform 17 acres of gardens. And at the center of it all, this crystalline glasshouse, the size of a football field.


“Or, as I like to call it, the ‘Crystal Palace,’” Redman said.

Redman recently walked Eyewitness News through the breathtaking vision.

“It’s going to be a unique structure that’s going to be like floating on water,” Redman said. “There’s going to be a series of canals and islands. When you walk into this new conservatory, it’s going to be like walking into a grand cathedral in Europe or something.”

The project is called Longwood: Reimagined. And it’s meant to expand and revitalize what’s now the west side of the conservatory.

The colorful Acacia Passage and neighboring Silver Garden will remain, but everything west of that will be fenced off starting March 1.

“It’s about horticulture and education and just enjoyment,” Redman said.

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To that end, the fan-favorite Bonsai Display will eventually be featured in an outdoor bonsai courtyard. The plan also calls for new classroom space and a restaurant with spectacular views of the main fountain garden.

“So, imagine having lunch at Versailles, and being able to see the waters dance and perform within a beautiful garden,” Redman said. “That will be our new restaurant.”

Those parts are expected to open by 2024.

First up though, is the much-loved orchid house. Its renovation should be complete as early as this fall. These beauties showcased elsewhere in the meantime.

“We’re going to disperse our orchid collection throughout the conservatory,” Redman said.

Don’t worry, your favorite plants are already being transplanted from the west side of the conservatory to the east side, including this queen palm from the palm house.

Queen Palm

A mix of the past and the future here at Longwood Gardens.

“Hopefully, there’s just going to be a sense of awe,” Redman said. “At the end of the day, that’s why we do what we do.”

World-class architecture and horticulture — the mission of founder Pierre du Pont.

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Longwood Gardens is still operating at 35% capacity because of the pandemic. Timed tickets are also required. You can purchase tickets by clicking here.