Garden Diary - June 2012


Fiat Lux at Longwood Gardens

Thursday, 7 June 2012


Perhaps you saw my earlier BelleWood Gardens entries when a group of us Garden Writers Association Region II members went on garden visits in and near Wilmington, Delaware on 29 May. Of course Longwood Gardens was an important part of our garden rambles. While there we were invited to come back on 7 June for the VIP / Media preview for LIGHT at Longwood Gardens. Ever willing to visit a garden - in the rain, in the snow, after dark by flashlight - I was eager to attend what promised to be a unique and special event.

This would require some planning. At better than 2 hours driving time I'd need to stay somewhere overnight. Fortunately there are hotels conveniently close to Longwood Gardens. Timed to begin at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, the event would start in daylight but end well after dark. I bought a monopod with tilt head and spike foot for my camera. Let me tell you, that wasn't adequate. My pictures became abstract impressions of LIGHT. I really needed a tripod and cable release. Many thanks to Longwood Gardens who graciously provided a number of images and permission to use them.

What is LIGHT and why am I so fascinated and enthusiastic about this exhibition? British artist Bruce Munro uses light as his medium. There are two installations in the conservatory, but most are out on the grounds. All but one are especially magical after dark, and that one is a sun time rainbow of colors best viewed by day. Come, take a walk with me as the sun begins to set and fireflies come out to add to the display.


image courtesy Longwood Gardens, Mark Pickthall, all rights reserved

Longwood Gardens has impressive dedication to sustainable practices. Here, with Waterlilies in
Bloom, Bruce Munro used thousands of recycled CDs to pay homage to Longwood's waterlily platters,
the iconic Victoria Longwood Hybrids first developed in 1961. His shimmering interpretations float
on the Large Lake. Similar to a diffraction grating, sunlight breaks into shimmering prisms of color.

Longwood Gardens has always been known for its wonderful water features. There's the main fountain
across from the Conservatory. Then there's the open air theater, complete with fountains. (Actors beware!)
And near the Large Lake there's also the Italian garden, its geometry of water features here lit up at night.

Inside the Conservatory, the Orangery is adorned with six Snowball Chandeliers
suspended from the towering ceiling. Each more than nine feet in diameter and
formed by 127 perfectly uniform glass balls. I thought they were splendid in daylight.
That is, until I could see their shifting, changing colors after dark. Monopod not enough.

.

Even more of a problem outdoors. I was enchanted by 20,000 illuminated stems of the the Forest of Light,
shimmering beneath the canopy of tulip trees, white oaks, and sugar maples. Threads of monofilament
snake across the ground, one to each seed of light. Colors change in waves - red, blue, gold, green.


image courtesy Longwood Gardens, Mark Pickthall, all rights reserved

.

Just as seeds burst into growth after rain washes away the inhibitors in their seed coat, in the
Conservatory, Light Shower rains more than 1,600 drops of twinkling lights over the flooded
Fern Floor, creating a magical reflection that intensifies the luminous shower. This is my favorite.


image courtesy Longwood Gardens, Corriette Schoenaerts, all rights reserved

.

From the Forest of Light there's a path, part boardwalk, part mown grass, off to Longwood's
gently undulating Meadow. The way is lit with LED lanterns that appear brighter and brighter
as day turns to dusk turns to night. People begin to arrive, looking for the 69 Water Towers.

One liter water bottles, specially bought for the exhibition so time and labor wouldn't be spent
to remove all their labels. Further, in keeping with sustainable practices, when the exhibition
concludes the vendor will take them all back for recycling. Enough in the way of labor to drill
the caps and fit the monofilament threads into each bottle, connect each to the light source.

.


image courtesy Longwood Gardens, Corriette Schoenaerts, all rights reserved

The sunset fades to black. The fiber optics are connected to an LED projector and a sound system.
We stroll between, around, among the water towers as colors change, in synch with the music.
Note that since this is a long exposure the colors appear more intense than what you'll see in person.


image courtesy Longwood Gardens, Corriette Schoenaerts, all rights reserved

It's getting late, as in my bemusement time melts away. Paul and I head back towards the Conservatory.
There's still more to see - 6,000 stem installation Field of Light beckons visitors toward its enchanting glow.
Long but narrow, and reflected in the dark waters of the Small Lake. Disturbed by us, geese and goslings natter.


image courtesy Longwood Gardens, Corriette Schoenaerts, all rights reserved

One more. Sinuously winding, 300 feet long, Arrow Spring mixes plants and light to create a meandering
hillside stream. In daylight, blue sage creates the simulation of a flowing watercourse. At night, cutting edge
fiber optics and ordinary LED flashlights, weave 15,000 points of light into a meandering stream of light.

Do come and be mesmerized by this magical event. Longwood Gardens is located on Route 1 near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. From 9 June to 1 September hours are 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday. Beginning 2 September through 29 September (after which LIGHT will close) hours are 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday. Admission is $18 for adults; $15 for seniors (age 62 and older) and $8 for ages 5-18 (or with valid student ID). Children ages 4 and under are free. LIGHT: Installations by Bruce Munro is included in Gardens Admission. Timed Tickets are required for Gardens Admission and can be purchased online. Once there, stay as long as you like.

Longwood Gardens has a free app for Apple and Android. Do make a visit though. That's the best. Come, and create memories.


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