A Longwood Christmas

Comparing the conservatory at Longwood Gardens to a greenhouse gives the wrong impression. When I think of a greenhouse, I think hoses and dirt and uncomfortable heat. The conservatory at Longwood is a 4 acre garden that just happens to live under glass. You stroll from garden to garden hardly aware that you’re inside at all, except for the occasional temperature change when entering one of the areas with plants that have special needs.
The only other *famous* garden I’ve visited is the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, so I don’t have much to compare it with, but I was very impressed. Everywhere I looked there was something beautiful and absolutely no sign of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into caring for a garden of this magnitude. I did not see a single insect and every plant, every leaf was in perfect condition. How do they do that with more than 200,000 visitors during the Christmas season?
The photos I’m sharing today were taken in the main holiday display areas – the Orangery, the East Conservatory, and the Exhibition Hall. The other areas also had holiday displays, but they were more subtle and in keeping with each garden’s theme. The pic above is the 25 foot Douglas Fir decorated with a living garland. Of course I didn’t write down the name of the plant and can’t remember what it was, but it reminds me of an artemesia.
Poinsettias were everywhere, of course, and while I don’t much like this plant, I do have to say that they looked very pretty. Narcissus, amaryllis, primroses, and lilies were heavily used. I liked all but the lilies; too strongly-scented and associated with Easter (and funeral homes) in my mind to enjoy them.
Here’s a plant combination you’d never see together but under glass – tulips in the foreground and winterberry holly in the background. The holly was used in most all of the displays and was striking! Does anyone know if winterberry holly is deciduous? I don’t grow it, but my husband was surprised to see a holly without any leaves and I wonder if they weren’t removed just for effect. Will have to look that up in one of my garden books.

I bought a few of the books for sale in the gift shop that describe the history of the gardens and have pictures from all seasons. Were my first visit in the spring or summer I don’t know that I would have even bothered to go into the conservatory – the outdoor gardens and fountains are so beautiful in the photos. I plan to visit again and see it at all seasons.

13 thoughts on “A Longwood Christmas”

  1. What a beautiful place to visit. I will have to take note for the next time we visit Pennsylvania. The gardens must be lovely in every season.

  2. Wow, Laura, I can’t believe how different the conservatory looks during this time of year. Now I’ll have to do a post from one of my past visits so you can see what it looks like in April. Believe me, you would go inside the conservatory even in the spring / summer, because it is gorgeous then, too.

  3. Spectacular! The Biltmore Estate in Asheville has gardens like these, only two hours away from us. I’m looking forward to a visit in the Spring 🙂

  4. How lovely! It looks like an elegant building, too, from what I can see in your pics. I’ve been to indoor rain forests and similar glassed-in projects, but they were in very sleek, soulless buildings. I would love to visit a real old-fashioned conservatory.

    You’re getting me sold on NJ! I just might have to pay your state a visit next time I’m up that way!

  5. When my daughter was young, around 4 or 5, I took her there in the early spring. I was hoping the wisteria would be in bloom, but it was not. My daughter has always been a “tough” one, and she was completely unimpressed with the flowers (the daffodils were in glorious full-bloom). What did fascinate her was the eye fountain! I want to see Longwood at Christmas but have never gotten there during the season. Your pictures gave me a virtual tour. Thanks.

  6. Ruth: Worth a visit if you’re ever out this way.

    Naturewoman: I can only imagine how different it must look at every season. Would love to see you share your pics sometime.

    Lynne: The tulips were a surprise, but I guess they matched!

    Mary: I’ve heard of the Biltmore – how close is Winterthur to you?

    Bunnygirl: Yep it was gorgeous, but NJ can’t claim this place – it’s in PA.

    Samtzmom: I thought it was a Christmas Cactus also, but the tag said Thanksgiving Cactus – you can see how big and beautiful they were. How come mine don’t ever look that way? lol!

    kgmom: Somehow we missed the Eye of Water – I think because they were doing an ice-skating performance and the line to get to that part of the gardens scared us away!

    I’m not so surprised that a little one would be unimpressed! I see they have plans for a new children’s garden to open soon – it looks really cool!

    Sonia: Thanks. Feliz ano nuevo to you also!

    Cathy: Glad you enjoyed your virtual visit!

  7. It has been almost 10 years since I have visited Longwood Gardens! I just love seeing this with the christmas tree, ect..

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