A few years ago we almost gave up on holiday visits to Longwood Gardens. We’re lingerers after all and the crowds and hustle bustle of hundreds of visitors can put a lot of pressure on ‘that guy’ who’s holding up the line because he wants to give all the gardenia flowers a sniff. We kept at it though because for as nice as Christmas and good cheer are, a few whiffs of the tropics can also go a long way bringing some jolly to a cold winter night… and these are the long nights and stressful days which can really use some tropical relief.
The orangery decked out for the holidays. Warmth, humidity, and sunshine made the display even better.
Who would have thought the answer to our crowded visits could be as simple as going on a less crowded day? For the second year in a row we visited on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and for Christmas diehards that might be inappropriately early, but for us it’s been working perfectly. The weather was beautiful and we nearly had the place to ourselves (relatively speaking of course).
This year the apples are back, this time keeping company with thousands of floating red cranberries.
The conservatories are always perfectly decorated with the colors and sounds of the season. I think my favorite part this year was the bright sunshine streaming in through the glass when we first arrived. Walking through the doors and into the sunny, humid warmth was an instant escape from weeks of static and dry skin.
Walls of windows, tree ferns, and fountains… I could get used to this 🙂
Flowers, greenery, and holiday decorations. You can imagine I took plenty of pictures but since they’re not snowdrop photos I’ll spare you from the bulk of it. Click >here< for last Christmas or >here< for last summer if you need more, or better yet visit the Longwood website for the real stuff!
My favorite view this year, a courtyard scene off the back of the music room.
Since the kids ditched us this year there was plenty of time to admire the boring flowers without anyone tugging a coat sleeve. Longwood always has orchids and I suddenly had the time to admire them… although I’m still far from being an orchid person (mostly due to their habit of dying on me).
Just a small section of a pink and white ‘orchid tree’
A beautifully patterned moth orchid
I won’t go on and on about every conservatory flower but I did find something which I thought was even more special than their regular. In one of the back greenhouse passages was a display of a few of their ‘on trial’ poinsettia, and I thought is was an interesting glimpse into some of the variety which this humble plant from Central America has been bred into. This is also where I met some of the ‘golden’ poinsettias which carry names such as ‘Autumn Leaves, and ‘Gold Rush’, and came in colors more traditionally associated with the end of summer. What do you think? At least there’s no blue dye or glitter in sight!
Longwood poinsettia trials
Poinsettias for the fall?
Poinsettia in hot pink…
I’m a sucker for any collection of plants.
…and then night fell. We grabbed a bite to eat, toured the grounds, enjoyed the fountains (not the main fountains, they’re off for the winter), took in some Christmas songs around the organ, warmed up around the fire, and then closed the place down with one last tour of the conservatory. It was holiday-magical in the late evening, with most visitors having already headed to the exit.
Ok, one more picture at night.
I guess it was getting kind of late… and empty 🙂
A Longwood Christmas with a French feel. The symmetry and apple-cranberry patterns surrounded by box are chateau parterre inspired.
Then we were the ones headed to the exit.
The stroll back out to the car. A two hour drive home awaits 😉
As usual we enjoyed our visit, and it must have been somewhat inspiring since I spent a few hours this weekend out in the cold putting up our own lights. So far the reviews have been less than flattering, and there’s no talk of admission tickets, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
If you decide to make your way to Longwood this year for the displays be sure to buy your tickets online before you go, just to make sure they’re available. Also if you want to take in a quieter visit, try to avoid Saturdays and the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Those might be the nights when you’re better off hitting the eggnog at home.