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It’s Christmas in July at Longwood Gardens—literally! This holiday season (November 24-January 8) Longwood is being transformed into a Gingerbread Fantasy, and the first batch of our locally baked gingerbread cookies have already arrived on site for our display gardeners to start decorating away!
Display Designer and Christmas Display Co-Chair Jim Sutton says the idea for recreating Longwood landmarks in gingerbread splendor came from a tree that from last year’s Christmas display. “The Terrace Restaurant featured a gingerbread tree last year that was overwhelmingly popular with our guests—it was so well received that we started to play with the idea of doing a whole theme around gingerbread: gingerbread icicles, gingerbread flowers, gingerbread garland, larger gingerbread trees, and the list went on,” says Jim Sutton.
Sutton and his team hit the ground running with this idea in January 2011 and began testing ways to make this sweet-tooth and nostalgic theme a reality. “We discovered white puffy paint looked identical to icing and that shellac would keep the cookies in just-baked condition,” says Sutton.
Over 25 real gingerbread trees will be decorated and faux iced throughout the Conservatory.
Sutton was thrilled to see the first batch of cookies last week. “Now that we have our first delivery our team will be working from now through Christmas finessing and creating new gingerbread patterns and styles—it’s all very exciting,” says Sutton.
One of the displays Sutton is most anticipating this holiday season is in the Music Room which will be overflowing with holiday candy cheer.
“If all goes according to plan, inside the Music Room guests will discover a Gingerbread Express train that will be carrying the ingredients to make gingerbread cookies,” says Sutton. Also, gingerbread scented candles will be glowing in the music room to engage all of the senses to create a feeling of wonder for children and nostalgia for adults.
Sutton says this theme is especially personal and meaningful to him because one of his favorite hobbies is baking.
“Every Christmas I bake about 1,000 cookies for my friends and family, and when this theme was finalized, I was one of the first Longwood staffers to bring in my personal cookie cutters for inspiration,” says Sutton.
Even though the Christmas theme takes an exorbitant amount of time and planning, Sutton says it really is the most fun season to be a part of at Longwood Gardens. “At Christmas our entire staff really works together as a unified and cohesive group—for Christmas we have 44 project leaders to deliver the spectacular displays for our guests,” he says.
Although this year’s theme is edible and can damage in the snow, Sutton says the theme will permeate the entire outdoor gardens, too.
He says, “Unfortunately, real cookies won’t withstand the wet weather during Christmas season—but we’ll have brown painted gingerbread elements interspersed throughout the outdoors gardens along with more than 70 trees that are decked in colorful lights to create holiday magic.”
A neighborhood collaboration
So where are all of these cookies coming from? Local Kennett Square baker, Liz Marden, is the cookie queen for Longwood Gardens this holiday, and is baking our staff the 9,000 cookies we’ll be using for the holiday display. Marden’s Kennett Square storefront will be opening on July 26 at 110 South Union Street.
However, Marden’s biggest task isn’t delivering the 9,000 cookies that Longwood will use throughout the display, but the scaled replica gingerbread houses of the Conservatory and Pierce-du Pont house.
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Enjoy family-fun activities, an outdoor concert, and behind-the-scenes experiences.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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