09 December 2013
Let me know which you prefer and why.
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When I go to a cultural landmark, I cast all expectations aside. This usual behavior is especially true on visits to Longwood Gardens, one of the premier horticultural centers in the United States.
As I crossed the border from northern Delaware to Pennsylvania, the excursion was nearly complete. I was not surprised to see the Gardens’ parking lot lined with cars from as far away as Ontario, Canada. Longwood’s reputation lures, and the year-end displays are an additional calling card to this national treasure.
During some visits I am let down. Even with my “in the moment” philosophy, there creeps into my thoughts all the years of marvelous designs and the unexpected, and I realize that they cannot always reach the apex.
But this year the staff were in their prime mode to stun us with traditional fare and the new for effective visual abundance. Their seasonal theme mixed heritage and legacy with traditional holiday rituals.
The focus is the role of fruit as a mainstay in the Gardens. Since its founder, Pierre S. du Pont, brought apple, apricot, nectarine, peach and plum trees to the estate in 1907, these botanicals have been instrumental to its story.
While the Main Conservancy is aglow in amaryllis, hydrangea, Oriental lily, poinsettia, trees, and wormwood, my very, very favorites discoveries at “A Christmas at Longwood” are: 1. The Floating Apple Tapestry, which is a river of Red Rome and Granny Smith apples that stand in salute to the season. Deep red and limey green snake from one end to the other. 2. The East Conservancy dons an eighteen-foot Douglas Fir, which is covered in almost 200 hand-blown glass pears in green, yellow and red. They mesmerize with their larger-than-life size and girth (10″-12″ in height and 2.5 lbs. in weight). Each were crafted by Cohn-Stone Studios in California, and each reflects the light and images that are captured on its surface. They are gorgeous. 3. In the Music Room “A Holiday Tea” is recreated. The room was built in 1923 for du Pont family parties. Festive decorations take us back to Victorian afternoon teas with petit fours and macaroons and fruit-decorated trees on the sidelines.
In the Garden’s brochure that arrived in snail mail and announced these festive displays, a brief phrase tells some startling facts: it “starts more than 12 months in advance and takes an estimated 5,400 hours to create.” That’s astonishing, but clearly the indoor and outdoor exhibitions rise to that level of effort.
If you are anywhere near the Mid-Atlantic (especially Delaware and Pennsylvania) between now and January 12, 2014, you will find “A Longwood Christmas” worth the effort the trip. Every visual morsel tinkers with time, simultaneously elevating and stilling it.
In the Lens section are five of photographs from my photo shoot. I was drawn to the Amaryllis (‘Hippeastrum Minerva’), because macro isolates and gives heart to a subject. It captures a slice that shows core elements in definitive ways–ways that can focus on the microscopic or raise awareness to the unnoticed. The macro goes beyond, and often detects what we usually cannot or do not see.
Under Longwood’s spell, I found solace and solitude. As speculators gazed, I slipped into small spaces and journeyed back and forth from signature features to trimmings of the season. My cup runneth over with its charm and spirit.
Tip of the Week: Please take a few minutes to click here and view the work of twenty macro photographers. While their use of equipment varies, I find that it is essential to become familiar with other photographers’ work. Each photographer achieves remarkable clarity and scale. Below is an example.
Here are other entries for this week’s challenge:
As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog. To view more about Longwood Gardens, click here.
Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Phoneography Challenges:
1st Monday: Nature
2nd Monday: Macro
3rd Monday: Black and White
4th and 5th Mondays: Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).