A Longwood Christmas Opens Thursday - Use my tips to plan your visit

As I write this newsletter, the Longwood Conservatory is filled with hundreds of staff and volunteers breaking down the Chrysanthemum exhibition and putting up Christmas. It all happens in 3 days: an extraordinary feat of organisation with spectacular results.  A Longwood Christmas has become for me, synonymous with Christmas and if you haven't visited, I have one word of advice – go! Stepping into this world of lights and sparkle is to suspend reality: it's pure escape and I recommend everyone see this at least once. Join me on December 9 or go yourself; but you do need a little preparation. Here are my tips to help you make the most of a Longwood Christmas!


C'est magnifique!

On Thanksgiving Day, Christmas is ready for visitors. Every year the theme is different  and this year is guaranteed to be super glamorous as decorations throughout the Conservatory draw on the splendor of France’s Versailles for inspiration. In the Exhibition Hall, thousands of floating cranberries, apples, and gilded walnuts create an intricate mosaic in the grand tradition of a French parterre garden. Ornate mirrors, trimmed trees and sparkling crystal ornaments fill the Music Room in the style of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors; even the Children’s Garden has Eiffel Tour ornaments!

Getting There You’re heading to the Brandywine Valley -  1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square,  PA 19348 longwoodgardens.org
Hours November 23 to January 7. Every day from 9am–10pm
Tickets You must book timed tickets. Once you’re in the gardens, stay as long as you like. Timed tickets are aimed at managing the numbers of people entering the gardens at one time. Do this online. 
Not a Longwood Gardens Member? BOOK TICKETS HERE 
Longwood Gardens Members visiting Monday to Thursday, or before 2pm on Friday, don’t need a timed reservation. But if arriving after 2pm on Friday, or on Saturday or Sunday you need to reserve your time slot. MEMBERS GO HERE TO RESERVE. Select 'Timed Member Reservations'  Remember to take your membership card & photo id on the day.
Like to become a member? Go here  
Parking & Traffic Parking is free. Traffic is heaviest when arriving between 3-7pm.  Friday nights & weekends are considered peak times and the busiest. 
Maps Go here for Longwood's Christmas Map or what's on & where.  

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The Outdoor Gardens are amazing when at 3:30pm, half a million lights are turned on!
Open Air Theatre Fountain Shows feature a rainbowed curtain of water set to holiday music. Runs on the hour from 10am–3pm, and every 5 minutes beginning at 3:30pm. 
Warm up at the firepits! There are 3 fire-pits at the Pumphouse Plaza, Peirce-du Pont House & Hour Glass Lake. 
Climb a treehouse for fantastic winter views! The Birdhouse (tallest); Lookout Loft Treehouse (wheelchair accessible) and the Canopy Cathedral Treehouse (grandest; inspired by a Norwegian stave church & built by Pete Nelson of Treehouse Masters). 
See the Wildlife Tree It’s an 18ft Canaan Fir just near the Canopy Cathedral Tree. I love this tree: it's so pretty & gives you fun ideas for wildlife-edible ornaments. 
Floating Trees illuminated in gold, red and green lights on the Large Lake are divine. 
Garden Railway G-Scale model trains rumble through a mini landscape of model Longwood buildings – it’s adorable! You’ll find the train next to the Beer Garden.

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The Conservatory  Visit early in the season for decorating ideas. Allow time to see everything in the daylight, then go back after dark – you'll be amazed at the transformation!  
Enter through the East Conservatory doors for a view to the 2 Fraser Firs and the white fir. Here see winterberry, cyclamen, paper white narcissus, eucalyptus.
While you're here, check out Longwood's Green Wall. 
Follow the Christmas Trail signs for all the highlights. I love the Christmas Trees decorated according to their garden rooms - don't miss the Succulent Tree - it's one of my favorites! 
Sing along to Christmas Carols played on the Longwood Organ in the Ballroom. Monday to Thursday 2pm, 3pm, 4pm. Friday to Sunday on the hour from 2pm to 8pm. Even if singing carols is not your bag, the Organ is a must see!  It's the largest Aeolian organ ever built in a residential setting. Walk into the Ballroom and follow the signs to see the inner workings of 10,010 organ pipes.
The Indoor Children’s Garden is for all ages! SO fun with secret passages, small rooms, big sculptures and lots of water action! 

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Eating There's great options, but due to the crowds, you do need to be organised. A little planning will definitely make for a better experience. Get to the Terrace Café before 4:30pm. After this time, lines are out the door & you’ll waste time queuing instead of enjoying the garden. 
Avoid the dinner crowds and book at 1906 Restaurant  – it’s fabulous! GO HERE TO BOOK Try the Mushroom Soup Kennett Square is mushroom capital of the world and the soup at either the café or restaurant is ridiculously delicious (if you like mushrooms that is!). 
The Beer Garden is outside beside the Café and offers tasty pizzas.

What Else to Know  Dress warmly but in layers You’ll be outside looking at the lights, but in the Conservatory, it’s a lot warmer, so layers are best. Comfy shoes – you’re walking a lot! Don’t be in a rush when leaving. This is a major event and people come from miles around - expect lengthy delays especially if departing from 6pm onwards. Make a weekend of it! There's a lot to do in the local area. Go here for  hotels & itinerary suggestions

LOVE TO SEE LONGWOOD BUT DON'T WANT TO DRIVE? Join my trip to Longwood on Saturday December 9! This takes all the hassle out of getting to Longwood and leaving, which is a big deal as the bus avoids all exit queues. I give out Christmas maps on the ride down, show a film about Longwood, have great snacks & make sure you are well oriented to enjoy your time in the garden. Bring your girlfriends or make it a Christmas date night! Go here for trip information or call Kirsty on 908-512-0600


Photos from Longwood Gardens website

Gorgeous Water Gardens to Visit this Summer!

Summer is a time of waterlilies, lotus and cool tropical serenity. Here are 5 of my favorite water gardens, and all are an easy day trip from the Jersey Shore.

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA

 PC: Judy Czeiner via Longwood Gardens website

PC: Judy Czeiner via Longwood Gardens website

If you only see one garden this summer, make it Longwood! From July until September, the water ponds are full of 100’s of species of water lilies and home to the gigantic ‘Longwood Hybrid’ water platters. They grow to 8 feet across and can even bear the weight of a light weight human. The size of these plants needs to be seen to be believed, but what’s also astonishing is just how fast they grow: in only 3 weeks, a relatively small curled up floating leaf grows to 6 feet wide! As well as the water garden, the new fountain gardens are on display this summer.

Join me on Saturday August 26 to see the water garden and fountains. Tour information is here

LONGWOOD GARDENS 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square,  PA 19348.
Open: Sun-Wed 9am-6pm, Thurs-Sat 9am-10pm longwoodgardens.org

New York Botanical Garden, Bronx NY

 PC: Kirsty Dougherty

PC: Kirsty Dougherty

New York Botanic Garden (NYBG)'s water ponds are gorgeous every summer, but this season is very special as Chihuly’s work has turned this garden into a unique visual feast! The mass of lilies, lotus and water platters floating amongst the glass sculptures is a sight not to be missed!  The picture above was taken during a visit with my group on July 18. Get there to see Chihuly and the water garden before it’s all over in September. If you can, visit at night to see the glass work all illuminated!

NYBG 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10458-5126.
Open Tues-Sun 10am-6pm. nybg.org

Untermyer Gardens, Yonkers NY

 PC: Untermyer website

PC: Untermyer website

Less known, but worth a trip up to Yonkers is Untermyer Garden. Step into the walled garden and get ready to be transported. Surrounded by ruins of Grecian architecture, there’s an old amphitheater with mosaic floors, soaring white columns and probably the most peaceful, harmonious water garden I know. The walled garden with its symmetrical waterways was originally intended to mimic a paradise on earth and it certainly retains an ‘other world’ feel. This extraordinary garden was once one of the country’s finest and is gradually being restored. Make a day in Yonkers: visit Untermyer first then head back to Wave Hill for lunch and an afternoon in the garden.

UNTERMYER GARDEN 945 North Broadway Yonkers, NY 10701
Open 7 days a week, 7am to sunset untermyergardens.org

Wave Hill, Bronx NY

 PC: Wave Hill website

PC: Wave Hill website

After you’ve wandered through Untermyer’s paradise garden, Wave Hill is only a short drive away. The plant connoisseur’s go to garden, Wave Hill is filled with gorgeous and unusual plants. As at Untermyer, water plays a big part in how you experience the garden: both are located high above the Hudson River giving extraordinary views across to the Palisades. If you can drag yourself away from sitting under their iconic pergola and watching the river pass, take a walk up through the Wild Garden until you get to the Aquatic Garden. It’s only small, but I love that it’s tucked away, so it’s like finding a hidden gem. I love the use of grasses around the pond and how the vine covered pergolas surround the garden, giving the space an enclosed sense of peace and retreat. It’s definitely worth the discovery.

WAVE HILL GARDEN 649 W 249th St, Bronx, NY 10471
Open Tues-Sun 9am-5:30pm wavehill.org

Chanticleer Garden, Wayne PA

 PC: Kirsty Dougherty

PC: Kirsty Dougherty

Visit Chanticleer Garden on a Friday evening in Summer: the garden is open later and there’s a lovely ambiance with families picnicking and enjoying this garden as they would their own. Like Wave Hill, Chanticleer’s water garden is in a more natural space, surrounded by acres of gardens. Here, in this idyllic setting, nature reigns supreme with exquisite lotus and lilies co-habiting with frogs, fish and dragonflies. Chanticleer is one of the most relaxing gardens you will ever visit, where the focus is on slowing down and appreciating your surroundings.  If you want to know about a plant, there’s ample information, but the visiting here is much more about engaging the senses than taking a horticultural lesson. Because of this, Chanticleer is known as a pleasure garden and considered the finest in the country. There is no finer place to wile away a summer’s day.

Join me visiting Chanticleer on September 13. Tour information is here.

CHANTICLEER GARDEN 786 Church Rd, Wayne, PA 19087
Open Wed-Sun 10am-5pm, Fridays to 8pm  chanticleergarden.org