‘A Longwood Christmas’ is tres belle

The Exhibition Hall features a deconstructed fleur-de-lis made up of 670,000 cranberries, 8,000 Granny Smith apples and 3,000 gilded walnuts. | Morgan Horell
Morgan Horell

While Christmas in the city is wonderful, sometimes we all need an escape from the concrete and commercialism to stop and smell the roses and Longwood Gardens is the perfect place to do it.

Their holiday tradition, “A Longwood Christmas,” dates back to the 1950s, when the Conservatory first opened to the public for their Christmas display. But communications director, Patricia Evans, reveals there’s even more history behind it.

“It really stems back to when Mr. Dupont, our founder, would have a Christmas display in the conservatory and a party.  We continue that legacy today.”

The most visited public garden in the United States begins planning their Christmas masterpiece more than a year in advance.

“We have a display designer who takes the lead in planning and then he works with a cross departmental team who comes up with ideas for themes and color palettes,” Evans says. “Our horticultural team has 74 full-time staffers and over 800 volunteers who work throughout the gardens.”

And how about all those lights in the outdoor displays? Evans reveals that there are half a million lights, which amount to 28 miles if you were to lay them out end-to-end.

“We start to put the lights on the trees over Labor Day Weekend and our arborists work straight through November to get them up in time,” she says.

In years past, themes have included “gingerbread,” “fruit,” “birds” and more. But for 2017, the theme for “A Longwood Christmas” is French, complete with floating mosaics of deconstructed fleur-de-lis, a Palace of Versailles-inspired Music Room display and more.

“The French theme comes from Mr. Dupont and his family emigrating from France in the 1800s.  He traveled frequently to the great gardens there for the inspiration he brought back to Longwood,” Evans notes. “We were really tying in his French heritage.”

If you’re planning on visiting Longwood Gardens this holiday season, be sure to buy your tickets ahead of time.

“Sometimes we do sell out,” she says. “The week between Christmas and New Year’s is very busy.”

And according to Evans, arriving in the afternoon is ideal.

“I say come around 3 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. The lights start to come on around 3:30 and you can enjoy the outside display once you’re done checking out the indoor conservatory,” she says.

“A Longwood Christmas” is on view through Jan. 7 and is open every single day — including Christmas and New Year’s.

If you go:

“A Longwood Christmas”
Through Jan. 7
Various times
1001 Longwood Rd., Kennett Square

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