Philadelphia Flower Show

Longwood Garden’s 1957 Plant Collecting Expedition

“Never before has any American had the opportunity of doing this sort of project on this scale for the Mediterranean region.” 

–Frederick G. Meyer, trip leader

Longwood:PHS Graphics-01
Longwood:PHS Graphics-02

In 1957, Frederick Meyer and his wife Jean boarded a steamer bound for France, rented a tiny Renault in Paris, and set out on an ambitious journey that would cover 15,000 miles and survey 80 European nurseries and botanical gardens. Their objective? To discover and collect new ornamental plants that were not in general cultivation in the United States.

European gardens, unmatched in horticultural excellence, had long been a source of ornamental plants for American gardens. When Dr. Russell Seibert launched his plant exploration program at Longwood Gardens in 1956, he identified the great potential of European gardens and nurseries, instructing the Meyers to send back plants of special interest to American ornamental horticulture.

From March to November 1957, the Meyers traveled across Europe, stopping in Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal, with side trips to England and Scotland. The couple collected more than 2,800 plants, many from the Mediterranean Riviera, which Meyer would later describe as “Europe’s greatest outdoor greenhouse.”

Visitors to the Philadelphia Flower Show were treated to a display organized by Longwood Gardens celebrating the show’s 2020 theme, “Riviera Holiday.”

Copywriter: Bonnie Burns

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