OK, so maybe you won’t be copying the tropical tree above. But in December, Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens is teeming with Christmas tree ideas. And the displays are nothing short of spectacular.
ABOUT THE DISPLAY
Every year brings a reimagining of the Christmas tree at Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens. Scattered throughout the garden’s four-acre Conservatory, the trees shine with fresh florals and glass ornaments all wrapped in glittering holiday lights. Each tree fits the design of the particular room or hallway in which it is located. And as befits a garden, most are ringed by masses of seasonal flowers.
It’s always a treat to view these masterpieces and the new twists they provide on holiday decoration. That said, this year’s exhibition takes things to even greater heights. In addition to the traditional towering evergreens, the Main Conservatory boasts a floating forest comprised entirely of festive firs. Elsewhere, there are trees constructed from such diverse materials as books and birdhouses. And there is even a Christmas tree made entirely from panels of green, stained glass.
This year’s display includes a tree made out of stained glass
A VAST COLLECTION OF ORNAMENTS
What would a Christmas tree be without ornaments? Over the decades, Longwood’s collection has grown to include over 55,000 baubles. When not on display, the ornaments make their home in a barn on the property. Each is individually wrapped, tracked and stored in one of 400 boxes sorted by color.
Metallic ornaments from the Longwood collection/Photo by Morgan Horell
Crafted mainly of glass, they range in size from a few inches to almost two feet.
Longwood’s largest ornament/Photo by Casey Orlosky
From classic to modern, all-natural to full glitz, Longwood Gardens offers a treasure trove of Christmas tree ideas. See if one of the following beauties can’t help turn your tree into a holiday masterpiece.
TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS TREES
To enter the display, visitors first pass through the East Conservatory, a half-acre, vaulted glass space composed of waterfalls, pools and fountains. In December, though, these features pale by comparison to the Christmas tree positioned at the far end of the garden. Measuring 24 feet tall, the white fir features chains of different size red balls embellished with hundreds of tear-drop icicles.
Christmas Tree Idea #1: For high visual impact, take into account the color of your tree’s foliage when selecting your ornaments. Place larger balls in the interior of the tree and smaller ones on the outside to create a sense of depth.
Elsewhere in the gardens, a pair of smaller trees, featuring pink, silver and white balls, mimic the theme established by the poinsettias at their base. These days, the many new poinsettia varieties can provide a wealth of ideas for holiday decorating.
Christmas Tree Idea #2: Place live flowers at the base of your tree and coordinate the color with your ornaments.
If you’re a true traditionalist, however, it’s usually all about red. Below is a tree featuring a spectacular array of red and silver ornaments. The white cyclamen at its base make the tree ‘pop.’
Christmas Tree Idea #3: Use long, dangling ornaments to make your tree appear taller.
When it comes to perspective, the size and shape ornaments you choose can make your tree appear either taller or wider. The long, dangling ornaments on the small tree above, located in the Main Conservatory, make it look taller. By contrast, the mix of round balls and garlands on the tree below make it appear wider.
Christmas Tree Idea #4: Use round balls and garlands to make your tree appear wider.
Below, another tree in the Main Conservatory is a cool mix of blues and silvers. But, the pink poinsettias and anthuriums at its base warm up the pastel palette.
Christmas Tree Idea #5: Warm ‘cool’ colors like blues and silvers with soft pinks and reds.
Who can resist the charm of a child’s tree decorated with hand-made ornaments? This set of Fraser firs was designed and crafted by local students. It features unusual tree toppers made out of slinkies, cardboard ‘presents’ and wooden stars as well as tiny vignettes made from lozenge boxes.
Christmas Tree Idea #6: Get your kids (or grandkids) in on the mix and let their imaginations run wild.
Christmas Tree Idea #7: Use found objects to customize your tree.
A highlight of Longwood’s collection each year is the many trees decorated with flora and fauna, including ferns, begonias, roses and a truckload of poinsettias. The tree below is one of a pair. Each features scarlet poinsettias and matching flower ornaments.
It’s not as hard as it looks. The potted flowers are wedged into the tree branches and watered regularly.
Other trees in the Conservatory consist of wire forms inserted with plants and decorated with strands of ornaments. Below, a tree formed from air plants is a standout in one of the smaller greenhouses.
Christmas Tree Idea #8: Decorate your tree with pots of fresh flowers and coordinating ornaments.
SMALL CHRISTMAS TREE IDEAS
Sometimes space doesn’t permit a large tree, or you’re simply looking to add more decoration to your home. Small trees offer a great opportunity to create on a grand scale without the labor associated with a massive composition. Here are some great themed Christmas tree ideas from the Gardens.
For the book lover, a tree made entirely from pages.
Natural ornaments and more paper make this small tree a stunner.
Frosted fruits and cinnamon sticks make this tree good enough to eat.
Christmas Tree Idea #9: Make a small, table-top tree out of styrofoam or wire forms and embellish it with plants, flowers, fruit and ornaments.
UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS TREES
Following are a few unusual trees from this year’s exhibition. For example, the ‘tree’ below (located in the Mediterranean Garden) was constructed entirely of green, stained glass panels which were then suspended from the ceiling.
Located in the Music Room, this ‘tree’ consists entirely of children’s books. At the end of the exhibition, they’ll be donated to local public schools.
Finally this tree, located in the Xeriscape Garden, is nothing if not an eye-catcher. Looking a bit like a Christmas tree that recently caught fire, it consists of dried, metallic-brushed tumbleweed. Despite the unusual coloration, its browns and silvery greens combine well with the other silver and grey tones in the garden.
Christmas Tree Idea #10: Try using unusual materials to build a tree. There’s no right answer.
For more information on this year’s collection and the amazing outdoor light display, go to Longwoodgardens.org/events to reserve an entry time and purchase tickets. Exhibition is on now through January 6, 2019.