A Longwood Christmas

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.

longwood christmas

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).

longwood christmas

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.

longwood christmas

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!

longwood christmas

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).

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!

…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.

longwood christmas

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.

longwood christmas

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.

Wrapping the holidays back up

Happy New Year!

It’s been fun, but New Year’s day marks the end of winter break and tomorrow means a return to work, so to prove that I haven’t been slacking for the entire holiday season here are a few highlights.  They’re all kind of off-garden-topic but lately I’ve been lost in seed lists and plant offerings and not much real work has been completed…. other than cleaning and eating and cleaning and assembling Christmas presents and repeating as necessary!

Snow came and went and then came again for the entire month of December and for some reason coats and gloves are always just inconvenient for anyone under the age of 16.a kid sized snowman

There was plenty of holiday decorating and holiday traditions but this year we broke away from the standard gingerbread and went with a sugar cookie version.  The kids also insisted they could decorate the whole thing themselves…… so far so good, but I’ll spare you from a picture of the finished product 🙂 decorating the cookie houseThere was shopping….. the less said of that the better….  but I did get to cross the IKEA Swedish meatball lunch off my to-experience list. the swedish meal at IKEAWe made it down to Longwood for their Christmas display….  Unfortunately we did not purchase tickets beforehand so ended up waiting two hours before being allowed entry.  I knew that might be a possibility but wasn’t sure what time we would be there, since morning snow delayed us for 2 hours and then traffic delays added another hour.  But I hope the people at Longwood would have worked with us had our times been way off, so next time I’ll try for tickets beforehand.  The kids were great though, and didn’t seem bothered at all by the delay… but I was a little disappointed we couldn’t see much outside while the sun was still shining.Longwood LightsThe miniature train display is always the highlight of the trip.train at longwood

Inside the greenhouses the display is always special.  In the cooler houses cyclamen rule, but poinsettias, amaryllis, orchids, and hundreds of other plants pack the beds and arrangements.winter flowers at longwood conservatoryOne of the centerpieces was the tree fern room.  Always flooded with a thin sheet of water, this year Granny Smith and Rome apples were arranged into a floating flourish of color.  The hanging “chandelier” isn’t too shabby either!christmas at longwood conservatoryAnd then back outside to finish up the outdoor decorations…. it’s really an amazing display!outdoor lights at longwood

To finish up the holidays, the next day we headed out to Omi and Opa’s house on Long Island, NY.  Their snow had all melted so it was perfect running and playing weather.  oldfield lighthouseBetween wrestling with cousins and uncle piggyback rides there was a little history at the Old Field Lighthouse.oldfield lighthouse And always a visit to the beach, with a ton of rock, shell and driftwood collecting!rocky winter beach on Long IslandAnd then back home to face the new year and the next winter storm system…. and to emerge from winter hibernation.

I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and is ready for January.  The next post will be back to plants, now that the winter garden is set up and running and snowdrops and cyclamen are waking up!