Remember how I swore I was in for the winter and had no plans to go anywhere as long as the mid-Atlantic region was doing its North Pole imitation?
Well, as Mary Poppins would say, that was a piecrust promise (“easily made, easily broken”), because my mother, brother, and I decided to go to Longwood Gardens on Saturday to see their Christmas display before it ended.
Longwood Gardens is one of my absolute favorite places. It started out as the estate of Pierre du Pont, an industrial magnate whose true passion was horticulture and landscape design. In 1906, du Pont purchased a farm in Kennett Square, PA and quickly began designing gardens for the grounds. By 1921, du Pont’s vision had increased in scale: he oversaw the construction of the “Conservatory,” a stunning greenhouse that eventually also featured the world’s largest pipe organ in a private residence. Additionally, du Pont was fascinated by fountains and designed elaborate landscapes around them. After his death in 1954, Longwood was turned into a public attraction—one of the best things to do in the Philadelphia area (though it’s about an hour’s drive from the city).
Mom, Bren, and I have a long tradition of going to Longwood, in both summer and winter. I kind of prefer it during the summer, because there’s more to see and my favorite water features are all closed during the winter, but that’s certainly not to say that a cold-weather visit is a waste of time! The Longwood Christmas display is always something special.
Saturday was cold—we’d all dressed as warmly as possible, but still made a beeline for the Conservatory as soon as we entered the gardens, walking quickly past the decorated outdoor trees. We wanted to be indoors.
Every year, the Christmas design team picks a theme for the decorations; this year’s was birds.
As Mom pointed out in several places, the designers create impressive displays using some very basic materials—things often look more complicated than they actually are. Like this pinecone penguin, for example:
Not to say that most of us would come up with the initial idea for making an ornament like this, but it wouldn’t be that difficult to replicate it. Right? (Famous last words.)
We walked around and around the Conservatory—you have to look at everything twice. There are so many subtle details to the displays that you always miss something the first time.
After a while, we race-walked from the Conservatory to the restaurant for soup and sandwiches, then practically ran back to the Conservatory as the sun was beginning to set and the air, unbelievably, got even colder.
We found seats in the Music Room and waited for an organ concert to begin. Last year we went to the gardens closer to Christmas and the concert was a sing-along of holiday songs. But this year we just sat and listened as the organist played.
By the time the concert ended, it was truly dark and all the lights were on, both inside …
.. and out.
Now, back to hibernation!