A Longwood New Year’s Eve

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Longwood ChristmasPure magic!

For 2012-2013, I choose Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, US, as the garden that I would visit throughout the year and profile.  Longwood is probably the most visited public garden in the US and holds a special place in my heart because I have taken almost 20 courses there, earning two Longwood Certificates of Merit in Ornamental Plants.  My previous posts profiled Longwood’s creative use of groundcovers (click here to read) and Longwood at night, focusing on the Bruce Munro light installation (click here to read).

Longwood conservatory One of the Longwood conservatories decorated for Christmas.

Visiting Longwood anytime of year is a breathtaking experience.  I have been going there for 30 years, and it never fails to delight me.  However, their Christmas display, both indoors and outside, is in a class by itself.  Before I go I always think the magic might have worn off.  But every time I walk out of the visitor’s center and see the lights, I am amazed once again.


Longwood ConservatoryA long view of one of the immense indoor spaces.

Because Longwood is so popular at Christmas, it takes a little planning to avoid the crowds.  In previous years, we choose a warm and drizzly night and had the gardens pretty much to ourselves.  This year we thought it might be fun to go on New Year’s Eve when musicians stroll through the gardens entertaining the crowds.  Our timing was perfect as we arrived at 2:15 pm, toured the relatively empty conservatories, ate delicious food in the uncrowded cafe, and escaped out into the garden just as it got dark and the hordes descended.


LongwoodOne of the rooms in the conservatories was set up for an immense holiday feast.  It was gorgeous.

The conservatories encompass four acres so there is a lot to see inside from orchids to bonsai to the actual greenhouses where the plants are grown.  All of it is decorated for the holidays.  Here are just a few displays that caught my eye:


LongwoodThe maze in the enchanting children’s garden.


LongwoodA very unusual color for a poinsettia, perfectly complimented.






Longwood ChristmasThe camellias were blooming.


Longwood Christmas-001The hibiscus were also in full flower.

As much as I enjoy the conservatories, the real magic of a Longwood Christmas is outside where half a million lights decorate hundreds of trees.  If you think you have seen it all before, I challenge you to come here and not be in awe.  Panoramic shots would really do the display justice, but holding the camera steady for night shots without a tripod proved difficult at best.  Here is a small sampling of the light extravaganza:

LongwoodA photo at dusk by the Peirce du Pont House


LongwoodThe lights show up better in full dark but this effect was kind of surreal.


LongwoodThe famous five-acre fountain garden.  It is hard to convey in photos the size and scale of Longwood.


LongwoodLooking back inside the conservatories.




Longwood ChristmasThis was my favorite wrapped tree hung with stars and displayed against the ink blue night.




LongwoodMammoth copper beeches completely wrapped.









If you are in the area, it is well worth a visit.  The display continues through January 6, and timed tickets are required.




Nursery Happenings:  The 2013 Snowdrop Catalogue is on the sidebar of the website and orders are being accepted.  To view the catalogue, click here.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA.  The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  The nursery is closed until spring 2013.  Thanks for a great year.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Facebook:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post.  You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.


52 Responses to “A Longwood New Year’s Eve”

  1. Anne Stokes Hochberg Says:

    Hi – I couldn’t find a way to comment on your WordPress page. (I logged in with Facebook but clicking on the comments area had no effect and I couldn’t type in it.) So I’m replying directly. I just wanted to comment on those wrapped beeches – amazing! Do you know whether they leave the lights there all year, or do they wrap them anew every year?

    Happy New Year! Anne

  2. Carolyn this is on my first list of places to see when I retire. I have always wanted to visit at different times of the year but I love seeing your posts for now….I’ll be checking out the snow drop catalogue! Happy New Year

  3. Absolutely beautiful… there are so many wonderful gardens in your part of the country… I would love to see them all! Happy New Year Carolyn… Larry

  4. how perfectly gorgeous..I fear I will never get to go to a dinner like that anymore..I used to …sigh lovely place even in winter!!

  5. Jodi Pollock Says:

    Carolyn, your photos took my breath away! Thank you!
    Happy New Year!

  6. Thank you for sharing this! I will take my iPad to my elderly neighbor’s house — I know she will enjoy your pictures almost as much as if she’d been there!

    Happy New Year Anne

    Anne Aden, EdM, MSOD Wellspring Praxis Organization Development Consulting and Coaching (W/H) 717.762.0990 (C) 240-675-1660

    From: CAROLYN’S SHADE GARDENS Reply-To: CAROLYN’S SHADE GARDENS Date: Tuesday, January 1, 2013 11:39 AM To: Anne Aden Subject: [New post] A Longwood New Years Eve

    WordPress.com Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens posted: “The 2013 Snowdrop Catalogue is on the right sidebar and orders are being accepted. To view the catalogue, click here. Pure magic! For 2012-2013, I choose Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, US, as the garden that I would visit througho”

  7. Clara Berger Says:

    Hi Carolyn,
    I’ve been to Longwood a couple of times at Christmas and your pictures bring it all back. Thanks so much for the beautiful pictures of one of my favorite places.
    Happy New Year and all best wishes for 2013.

  8. Any place that can still delight you after 30 years must be magical! Love the camellias, and I’ve never seen such colors in hibiscus! I would love to see that fountain garden! Amazing in pictures – I can’t imagine how impressive it must be in person!

  9. That fountain garden is stunning. I can see it’s much larger than I initially thought as those are large trees lining that walkway. Must have been spectacular to walk through. What a wonderful place to visit.

    • Marguerite, The photo doesn’t show the whole extent of the fountain garden. I was trying to guess the acreage, and didn’t get anywhere near five. Everything is so big at Longwood that you lose perspective. They own so much land that they recently moved a state highway to a different location. Carolyn

  10. Saw Longwood Gardens several years ago in summer. Glad you shared the holiday images–really wonderful. Happy New Year.

  11. Carolyn, This is beautiful! I think you did a great job of capturing the lights. Happy New Year!

    • Jean, I am glad you liked my light photos. I wanted to capture the full panorama as you exit the visitor’s center but it was too blurry without a tripod. That was the first time I used my night landscape setting, and I was quite happy. Carolyn

  12. This is absolutely gorgeous! I look forward to visiting this garden someday!

  13. What a magical display they put on in the gardens this year, and your photos show it so beautifully. I really have to get there sometime this year to see the gardens in bloom. I love the lights and would like to see that sometime too.

  14. This is on my ‘must do one day’ list! I had no idea the conservatories were so vast- absolutely stunning.

  15. One of these years I must make it to Longwood. We like to get out of the heat in the summer and go north. Hopefully it is cooler up (over) there. I’d love to see it at Christmas, but not sure I’d want to chance the winter weather. Enjoyed seeing your photos, though!! Thanks for sharing. How wonderful to have the garden close enough to visit often!

    • Toni, Yes, I am very lucky to live in what I consider gardening Mecca for the US. As far as it being cooler here in summer, I guess it depends on where you are coming from. July 2012 had 21 days in the 90s and 10 over 95—not very cool and quite humid. Carolyn

  16. paulinemulligan Says:

    Stunning images Carolyn, those huge beech trees are amazing, I wonder how long it takes them to put all the lights up? Happy New Year to you and your garden!

  17. Amazing place and wonderful photos!

  18. Happy New Year, Carolyn! Longwood Gardens looks like a perfect place to celebrate the New Year. Thanks for giving us a virtual peek! The outdoor lighting is so beautiful, especially the beech trees. I have never visited Longwood, but it was one of the first gardens to catch my attention, many years ago when I began to explore library books for gardening ideas. Someday I will plan a visit up to your part of the country and visit this fabulous place!

  19. Oh Wow! Just gorgeous from the festive lighting to the conservatory. I could live inside there and be very happy. LOL! Blessings in 2013 Carolyn.

  20. Gladys Black Says:

    Great! Thanks.

  21. Thanks for sharing your visit, Carolyn! The trees at Longwood are definitely one of their greatest assets. Mature trees and shrubs really raise the dignity of a garden. Happy New Year!

  22. Happy New Year Carolyn. Longwood does not disappoint. I thought the floral displays really beautiful and of course the outdoor light display was magic. What a treat.

  23. aberdeen gardening Says:

    Truly magical Carolyn, I had to call Myra over to the computer to take a look. Happy New Year.

  24. One of these days I am hoping you will give me a grand tour of Longwood. So wonderful! Happy New Year to you!

  25. Thank you for sharing this treasure with us. I’m looking forward to seeing Longwood throughout 2013. They obviously have very talented and passionate people working there. You can tell from the gardens and the settings they create.

  26. Inspirational place, any time of the year!

  27. Longwood is magical this time of year. I had the pleasure of visiting on a snowy day and will never forget the magic of the day! Beautiful photos!

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