EAST MARLBOROUGH -- The Holiday Lights display at Longwood Gardens has not gone unnoticed by the people of southeastern Pennsylvania. Each night as the switch is turned on, thousands upon thousands of visitors flock to the world famous botanical center to be awed by the extravaganza that for years has created fond memories in children and adults.
This year cars were parked not only in the lot adjacent to the gardens, but in the field across Route 1, where buses transported guests to the show and back at frequent intervals.
The usual assortment of flowers that Longwood is famous for has not gone away, but for this season, the lights -- miles of them -- dominate the scene. People who enter the gardens are greeted by rows of trees covered in green and white lights, accented by what looks like a shower of huge, lighted tinsel from above.
As far as the eyes can see in either direction, the exterior sections of the gardens are glowing, and yet those guests who are willing to walk another quarter or half mile get to see even more.
Some of the trees are wound around their branches, and the appearance is true to their shape. Others have lights strong straight from their top to bottom, making them appear like Christmas trees. Still others -- like those in small stands of deciduous trees, are given a warm glow from below.
But there's more. People who walk down the path to the Italian Water Garden will see first a row of lighted, evergreen-like constructed trees beside a pond, and then at the end of the path there's a display of brightly shining trees in the water that one worker said were put together by the West Grove Fire Company.
At the outdoor theater, the fountain shows run every half hour or so, spewing water of many colors into the air in front of a background of more lit trees. It is so popular, that even in chilly weather people are willing to stand in line awaiting the next show while the current one is going on.
The crowds are overwhelmingly appreciative of it all, with very little butting in line or pushing and shoving. Almost everyone was taking pictures, either with cell phones or larger cameras. The mood is particularly romantic for couples who walk arm-in-arm and asked others to take their picture in front of particularly attractive displays.
But the exterior was not the only part of Longwood that impressed. Inside the conservatory were rows of poinsettias in many shades of red and pink, along with elaborately decorated trees and chandeliers. One room along with holiday tour route is filled with three-foot tall evergreens that were adorned with objects made by elementary school students in local schools. On the walls are plenty of wreathes outfitted with various materials, and the center court features a long carpet of material almost like a golf green with various swirling designs.
For children, an elaborate model train setup features mountains, fields, roads and dwellings with several sets operating simultaneously in just past and to the rear of the topiary garden.
The security and staffing is heavy for this show, with attendants carrying flashlights appearing quite eager to give directions and answer questions.
Visitors should remember that timed tickets are required through the holiday season until Jan. 12. Members are still permitted to visit free, but they, too, must get timed tickets. During the holiday season Longwood Gardens is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Consult the website. longwoodgardens.org, for prices and ticket availability.
A Longwood Gardens spokesman said bad weather affects attendance, but that the gardens can accommodate a few days of foul weather during the Christmas display. For people who have purchased timed tickets and then are hit with difficult road conditions -- snow -- they may pay a small transfer fee to get their tickets changed to another day. Last Sunday the spokesman said attendance was down because of the snowstorm, and the gardens waived the fee for transferring visiting times.