As anyone from the greater Philadelphia area will tell you, Longwood Gardens is known for its special Christmas displays. Located just outside of the city near the state line between Pennsylvania and Delaware, Longwood Gardens is more than 1000 acres of gardens which came to real prominence under the ownership and loving eye of Pierre S. du Pont and his wife, Alice. Each year, Longwood Gardens prepares a special Christmas display. A large portion of the famed Christmas display are holiday lights that you can admire as you walk the property. But the extremely popular exhibit requires timed tickets and, from previous experience, I can assure you it’s extremely crowded during the nighttime hours when the lights are aglow. So, instead, I made a late morning journey to visit Longwood Gardens and appreciate the display.
Wear comfortable shoes and dress warmly (although given the current weather we’re having that last piece of advice may be disregarded). There’s lots to see at Longwood Gardens. For their Christmas display, there are water fountain shows and Christmas trees everywhere. Wander the grounds. But it is in the Conservatory that you will find the most plants. Poinsettias join more evergreen trees and twinkling lights than you can shake a stick at. The main areas of the Conservatory house the largest portion of the Christmas decorations. But as you wander through the rooms — among other things there are bonsai, cacti, and tropical plants on display — they still have the holiday spirit. Lights decorate a multi-tiered fountain that is spilling over with succulents. There are plenty of plants to admire, regardless of the holidays.
One thing I liked about Longwood Gardens’ Christmas display is, unlike my experience at the Philadelphia Flower Show, their staff were hard at work the day I visited watering everything and, as necessary, replacing plants. These displays will look as fresh on the last day as they did on the first.
Longwood isn’t just known for its gardens. It is also known for its pipe organ. There are regular organ performances throughout the day as well as a small exhibit on the history of the pipe organ. You can see some of the pipes behind glass and learn the science behind how it works. With over 10,000 pipes — 10,010 to be exact — it is one of the larger pipe organs in the world.
After you visit the Conservatory, be sure to stop by the Peirce-du Pont House. Before the original grounds were Longwood Gardens they were known as Peirce’s Park, a farm and arboretum, in honor of brothers Joshua and Samuel Peirce and the impressive collection of trees that they planted there. The home from the 1700s was expanded by the du Pont’s and you can tour the first floor of the beautiful building. It’s historically decorated and offers background and insight into the people who transformed the property and made it what it has become.
My visit for Christmas has just made me that much more excited to return when it’s warmer and enjoy the entire property — from the meadow to the fountains. But without the scarf and gloves!