Mums a colorful prelude to Christmas

Longwood Gardens is internationally known for its dazzling floral gardens and the Chrysanthemum Festival that continues through November 19 does nothing to tarnish that reputation.

On Saturday, the mums helped sign off on the inaugural season of the refurbished illuminated Main Fountain Gardens. Thousands of visitors sat on the grass or perched in four or five-deep rows in lawn chairs, listened to Beatles music and watched the fountains blast water 170 feet in the air.

It was a superb end to the Main Fountain Garden season that began in May after a $90 million, 2.5-year project.

The mums don’t disappoint, and the star of the show here is a single plant with 1,443 flowers in a helmet of yellow flowers.  Volunteers show photographs of the plant’s beginning, the careful nurturing process and the moving of the final plant down US Route 1 with a police escort to the conservatory. And, they try to convince skeptical viewers that there is, indeed, only one plant and one stem.

red yellow mumsOf course, the 4.5-acre conservatory still hosts its traditionally beautiful orchid displays and adds 19 more indoor gardens and 5,500 plants.

Longwood Gardens is about 70 miles or a 90-minute drive from York. 

Outside, the Garden Railway stretches 400 feet and continues through January 7. Fountain shows and garden workshops continue during the day and music performances –some free, some with tickets– are hot items. Some are already sold out.

But for all the flowers, concerts and sounds, the Christmas lights are turned on November 23 and will burn until January 7, and it’s a spectacular sight. The conservatory, of course, is decorated in full holiday glory with poinsettias in every corner, along every wall and more than 400,000 lights greet eager visitors.