Conestoga House and Gardens's history goes back to the 1700s. The tropical plant-filled estate was open seasonally to the public for decades. The past few months have brought a few changes: The site was sold and COVID-19 delayed the start of the 2020 season. The grounds are open again and filled with lots of plants.
Here's a look at the house and some of the many plants there. Read more about the re-opened estate
Conestoga House and Gardens
A pandemic got in the way, but Conestoga House and Gardens is open to the public again with a new owner.
A new owner
Ecklin Properties completed the purchase of the Marietta Avenue estate in early March.
Since 1982, the property has been open to the public seasonally and available to nonprofits.
The plantings on the site include hanging baskets and containers combinations, both large enough to stand out next to a home that's about 10,000 square feet.
Containers for all
The containers at the site may be large, but anyone can have a container garden, Wettig says.
Window boxes and ivy
The rear of the house has boxes with white caladiums and trailing vinca in between patches of ivy covering the walls. Ivy was an early form of air conditioning, Wettig says. Scientists have found
ivy acts as a thermal shield, insulating brick from temperature extremes.
“Having plants on your buildings helps to soften the architecture of the sharp edges,” Wettig says. These window boxes star coleus and begonias. Many of the plants filling the containers and hanging baskets at Conestoga House are propogated in the site's greenhouses.
On a house that’s nearly 10,000 square feet, there are a lot of edges.
More than a dozen topiaries are scattered through the site. One is Miss Bear covered in succulents and sempervivum.
Rosie the Dragon
Rosie the dragon is made from dried materials, including magnolia leaves as scales, palms on her back and a painted leaf as her tongue. Her eyes are lotus pods and her eyebrows are pieces of lichen.
This dragonfly is made of succulents and sedum.
The Conestoga crew works with a wide variety of tropical and semi-tropical plants, like anthurium, to show visitors something different and how to showcase "indoor plants" outside.
Lily of the Nile
Lily of the Nile, which is neither a lily or from the Nile, still has a beautiful tall blue flower.
In its native habitat, the shrimp plant is found in the understory of tropical forests. In Lancaster County, it thrives under the shade of trees.
Golden candles is a common name for this plant. Wettig likes the genus name,
Pachystachys lutea. In Greek, pachys means thick and stachys means ear of corn or spike. Lutea is yellow.
Tropical plants like this Spanish moss live indoors during the cold weather, but thrive outdoors during the summer.
The flowers of angel's trumpet can grow
20 inches long.
While the focus of the gardens is tropical plants, there's also a rose garden plus perennial plants that survive the winter without a greenhouse.
The rose at Conestoga House usually bloom in June. Otherwise, the other tropical plants bloom throughout the open season.
The roses are still blooming into July.
Coral vine may be considered an invasive species in Florida, but it has a special spot in the center of the rose garden.
The vine is an aggressive grower and would cover this fountain by the end of summer without attention from the site's staff, Wettig says.
Perennials that bloom year after year include lace cap hydrangea.
There's even space for gooseneck loosestrife, which spreads so quickly, some gardeners may consider it invasive.
This dancer fan runs between the house and Marietta Avenue, behind a wall of shrubs.
A few areas of the house have plant-filled roof boxes.
The new owners, Ecklin Properties, painted the house’s orangery, where some of the tropical plants spend the winter.
The hanging baskets decorating the cabana take three people to put into place at the beginning of the season. It takes a staff of five to care for the grounds plus help from volunteers.
Conestoga House and Gardens
The nearly eight-acre property was open seasonally to the public for decades. The site opened in June and will be open Wednesday through Friday through October.