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Dream Drives: Longwood's Main Fountain Garden Back in Action

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. (CBS) -- After years of restoration work, the Main Fountain Garden at Longwood Gardens springs back to life Memorial Day weekend with a bigger, bolder water show.

Every season, Longwood artists unveil elaborate displays of plants, lights, and water on the grounds in Kennett Square. But for more than two years, the Main Fountain Garden was dry so crews could give the 1930s-era attraction a facelift and 21st century water pumps. On Saturday, May 27, the restored fountain garden reopens to the general public.

Paul Redman, Longwood Gardens president and CEO, called it "one of the most beautiful fountain gardens in the world. The only other place you can go and see something like this is Versaille, or go to Europe, but this is right here in Chester County."

Workers not only repaired old fountain jets, they added more and made them more powerful. "We have over 1,200 individual fountain jets out there, and that's a significant increase from what we had before," Redman said.

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Many of the new fountain jets are robotic, "so they move, they swizzle, they do things that people have never seen before," Redman said.

Visitor Greg Synnestvedt happened to arrive at Longwood while crews were testing the new fountains. "They're just, they're magnificent," he said.

Not only are many of the fountain jets new, so is some of the detail work, like the stone carved floral arrangements around the edge.

"These particular fountain features are called our bouquets. Every single bouquet that you see has a specific floral motif," Redman said. "We have hundreds of these bouquets, and unfortunately, we had to have new ones carved. Every single one of these were carved by hand by French artisans, in Wisconsin of all places."

Architects and designers also installed new seating.

"What's really remarkable is that I think that most of our guests are going to wonder, 'Was this here before?'" Redman said.

"Yes, and what's the answer?" Meisha Johnson asked.

"No," Redman said. "It is totally new. We are in our new Pumphouse Plaza. This is an entirely new experience."

Dotted with black cafe tables and chairs, the new plaza is anchored by one of the original fountains created by Longwood Gardens founder Pierre S. du Pont.

"As you can see, it's a very European type of experience," Redman said. "On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, you'll be able to have a glass of wine, a beverage, some cookies, or a pastry."

Redman said he likes to say that Longwood is an "engineer's garden," because "underneath all this beauty is an entire layer of Longwood, of infrastructure, mechanical, plumbing and electric that's bringing life to our fountains."

Carol McLaughlin, who was visiting from San Francisco, said, "It's more beautiful than any other garden I've ever seen, including those in England."

The restoration "cost $90 million, but what's the price of beauty?" Redman said.

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This season at Longwood is called Summer of Spectacle. It runs through September 30, 2017.

Starting Saturday, May 27, the Main Fountain Garden brings back daily scheduled choreographed fountain shows. General admission requires timed admission tickets, and Longwood warns that demand will be high. They suggest buying those tickets online before arriving.

Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 9PM, "there will be a dramatic, show-stopping 30-minute fountain show like nobody has ever seen before," Redman said. Admission after 5PM on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays requires a timed admission ticket.

Longwood Gardens members can visit free, but they must have a free timed reservation if they are arriving after 5PM on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

For Summer of Spectacle highlights and calendars, go to  or download the guide at

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