EAST MARLBOROUGH — Longwood Gardens has announced a $250 million expansion project that will include a new 32,000-square-foot glasshouse West Conservatory, a 3,800-square-foot, custom-built cascade garden, a new bonsai courtyard, a waterlily court, a new public restaurant and private event space, a new administration building, and a transformation of its century-old Orchard House.
"It's a massive project," said Paul Redman, CEO of Longwood Gardens. "It's our most complicated project that we have ever embarked upon. It will be a new garden experience like no other."
Work on the project will begin this spring. The Main and East Conservatories will remain open throughout the year and planned events and performances will continue to be held, pending pandemic-era restrictions.
The new buildings and landscapes will be located on a 17-acre plot of land that will connect the east and west sides of the central gardens. In all, Longwood Gardens encompasses more than 1,100 acres.
Called "Longwoods Reimagined," the crown jewel will be a 32,000-square-foot glasshouse — the size of a football field — that Redman said appears to float on a body of water and rises with asymmetrical peaks.
"Can you imagine a garden floating on water?" Redman said.
The glasshouse will feature cultivated landscapes of the Mediterranean, giving visitors a seasonal display of plants alongside pools, canals and low fountains.
"It really is a living, breathing building," said Marian Weiss, founder and principal of Weiss-Manfredi Architecture which is involved in the project. "Our hope is that a visitor can leave their world behind for a moment, and transport to a place they have never imagine."
Another glasshouse, this one 3,800 square-feet designed by Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, will sit on the site of a Cascade Garden featuring tropical plantings in the area of the West Conservatory.
An outdoor bonsai courtyard will be constructed close to the West Conservatory, featuring bonsais perched on pedestals.
Included in the expansion plans is the construction of a new education and administration building with a library and classrooms.
"This will be the hub of Longwood for learning," Redman said. "We will have state-of-the-art classroom. We are dreaming really big and we are planning for an incredible future. We are thinking in terms of 100 to 200 years, just like our founder did."
Also planned is a renewal of the Waterlily Court, designed by architect Sir Peter Shepheard in 1989, which will serve as the gateway to the new West Conservatory, and the preservation of six historic Lord & Burnham glasshouses from the early 20th century to be used as year-round garden displays.
The Orchard and Banana houses will close on March 1 during the transformation process but will reopen by the end of the year.
At the east end, a new path will be created through the grounds, and a new public restaurant will be constructed that will cater to private events and provide views of Longwood's world-renowned Main Fountain Garden, which got $90 million in improvements a couple of years ago. The fountain features 1,340 Jets and streams; 30 flame features; 1,389 LEDs and thousands of attractive plants from all over the world.
The project is being managed by Bancroft Construction.
"Our hope is that this garden will allow people to return again and again and find in themselves different things that they had never seen before," Weiss said.
Before the pandemic, Longwood Gardens was attracting more than 1.5 million visitors annually.
Longwood Gardens has been voted as having the best botanical gardens in the United States by USA Today.
General admission to Longwood Gardens is $25 for adults, $22 for seniors ages 62 and over, $22 for college students, $13 for children ages 5 to 18 and $18 for active or retired military members. Those ages 4 and under are admitted free. Yearly membership plans are available priced from $90 to $575.
Longwood Gardens is currently open every day of the week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except on Tuesdays, when it is closed.