A Longwood Christmas is going retro this year, with tinsel-draped trees and throwback ornaments, as well as some super-sized and — so far — secret surprises outdoors among the half-a-million lights.
“The desire for nostalgia and to reconnect with our pasts inspired this year’s retro theme—what’s old is new again,” said Jim Sutton, Longwood Gardens’ senior horticulture display designer.
“During the holidays, we often bring out decorations from our own childhoods or heirlooms that have been lovingly passed down through generations. This year’s theme rekindles those memories in a larger than life way.”
The popular holiday event at the Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, gardens will include conservatory decorations including a 24-foot grand fir tree in traditional red and green, a Fern Floor vintage street scene and a music room transformed into a dinner party featuring handcrafted glassware made by two Pennsylvanian nonprofits.
Outside, a red 1969 Longwood Farms truck will welcome guests to the Peirce-du Pont House and luminarias will line the pools of the Italian Water Garden, which will have a 24-foot-tall tree made of holiday lights in the center. Nearby, flicker lights lead guests along the Meadow Boardwalk into a 200-foot-long shimmering tunnel of lights.
Timed tickets for the event are required — many nights sell out — and are available here.
Longwood’s holiday displays grew out of the du Pont family Christmas traditions, which included bringing friends, family and workers in for holiday celebrations when Pierre S. du Pont lived there.
He had bought the farm to protect a stand of historic trees; now the Longwood name is known around the world in gardening and tourism circles.
Today, a Longwood Christmas brings in crowds. The 2022 event set a record with 572,000 guests.
The 2023 version will run from Nov. 17 through Jan. 7. Timed tickets are required and recommended because many nights sell out in advance. Get them here.
Longwood Christmas music room
Longwood’s conservatory offers show-stopping display after display, wrapped in corridors lined in poinsettias of many shades and other plants associated with Christmas.
This year’s Fern Floor — known for such delights as a floating carpet made of apples — will be transformed into a vintage small town Main Street with street lamps and tinsel garland. as well as classic ornaments, shiny décor and handcrafted elements reminiscent of the ’40s and ’50s .
“Almost everyone who’s grown up in a small town has memories of Main Street being graced with garland and glowing street lamps,” Sutton said. “And if you didn’t grow up in a small town, you’ve likely seen that image on a holiday card or in a movie.
“We took that snapshot and brought it to life to create a vintage holiday street on the Fern Floor.”
In the music room, the mid-century theme will play out at a holiday party set in blush and mint furnishings with gold accents, a mirrored bar, and a champagne-colored tinsel tree decorated with white, pink and green ornaments.
The nonprofits, located in Reading and Kirkwood, PA respectively, focus on creating glass art as part of community outreach.
Among the highligjts are a one-of-a-kind punch bowl, candy dishes, glass leaves and life-like hors d’oeuvres.
Gardens and outdoor firepits invite guests to gather in their warm glow. Timed Tickets to A Longwood Christmas are required and are available now at longwoodgardens.org.
Other must-sees in the conservatory include living wreaths fashioned from succulents and other plants, a chandelier featuring white phalaenopsis orchids, ornaments crafted from a variety plants and 18-foot-tall rotating tree boasting vintage lights, red and silver tinsel, beaded garland, and ornaments that grow in size as they progress down the tree.
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Outdoors, decor will include 100 trees decorated in lights, ribbons of lights hanging across the Flower Drive, stars that seeming to have descended at the Large Lake and tangled holiday lights floating on the Small Lake.
Glowing luminarias line the pools of the Italian Water Garden, while a 24-foot-tall tree fashioned from holiday lights stand in the center. Flicker lights lead guests along the Meadow Boardwalk, culminating in a 200-foot-long tunnel of lights that changes and morphs into different colors and patterns.
The holiday Garden Railway returns, as do strolling carolers, daily fountain shows in the Open Air Theater and the Café and Beer Garden.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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