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The countdown to the sweetest Christmas at Longwood Gardens is on! For weeks, we’ve been busy frosting gingerbread ornaments, decorating wreathes, prepping poinsettias, and hanging hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights to turn Longwood into a gingerbread fantasy starting November 24.
This week marked an exciting milestone in our holiday preparations! The sweet centerpieces of our Music Room—gingerbread house replicas of the Conservatory and Peirce-du Pont House —were delivered by the cookie queen of our holiday display, local baker Liz Marden.
In addition to these exquisitely detailed gingerbread houses, Liz and her team of sweet geniuses baked thousands of gingerbread cookies for our display at her bakeshop, Liz Marden Gourmet Cakes & Desserts, Inc., less than 3 miles away from Longwood Gardens in downtown Kennett Square, PA.
Liz and her daughter, Kathryn Marden, began their research for construction the most inspiring gingerbread house replicas back in June where they met with Longwood’s display designers.
“The overall process from design to baking and construction was a welcome challenge to my team at the bakery. This is one of the biggest projects we have undertaken and has been a great learning experience for all the chefs,” says Liz Marden.
Liz says even though Kathryn and herself have spent years visiting Longwood Gardens, they explored the Conservatory and Peirce-du Pont House with new eyes to do research to best recreate these Longwood Landmarks using their knowledge of baking and pastry.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to have been selected as the chef to help bring the gingerbread element of A Longwood Christmas to life. From the beginning of the project, this has been a great collaboration between the team at Longwood and our bakeshop—I can’t wait to take our team to see our cookies featured throughout the display,” says Marden.
In total, a team of five chefs contributed to the rolling, cutting, construction, and detail design for each of the gingerbread houses. Additionally, Longwood Gardens' carpenters helped kick off the gingerbread house project by building custom frames for the Conservatory and Peirce-du Pont house to give the sweet creations stability and shape.
It’s all in the sweet details
“My favorite thing about the Peirce-du Pont house is how real the brick texture and architectural details look. We also got the idea to use chocolate rocks for the porch and stairs of the house,” says Kathryn Marden.
For the Conservatory gingerbread house, Kathryn says getting to preview photos of what the Longwood Gardens Christmas display was going to look like gave her all of the inspiration and details she needed to build all of the sugary foliage and decorations.
“It’s in the details we get to be creative—I was able to recreate the types of plants and trees by using airbrushed rice crispie treats and waffle cones,” says Kathryn.
A detail not to be missed on either house is the sugared glass windows.
“The windows in both gingerbread houses (pictured) are made from isomalt, which is beet sugar. We melt down the sugar mixed with water, and pour the liquid into molds for each window pane,” says Kathryn.
After each window pane hardens, Kathryn says her team installs each window by hand-piping the panes on with chocolate.
Overall, Liz says that although her team faced some challenges such as the humidity our region endured during the fall season, she feels a great sense of accomplishment and can’t wait to visit during opening weekend of A Longwood Christmas.
To learn more about Liz Marden Gourmet Cakes & Desserts, Inc., please visit their website, www.lizmarden.com
Longwood Gardens recently welcomed a new member to its staff: a rambunctious kitten named Mulligan. Mulligan will help our Integrated Pest Management Program with rodent control in the Hillside Garden.
Mulligan may look familiar to many of Longwood’s Facebook fans. Over 800 fans helped name our newest addition by sending in suggestions and voting on his new name. Although many ideas came in, fans ultimately voted “Mulligan”, meaning extra stroke or second chance in golf lingo, to be the most fitting.
Hiding in the underside of one of Longwood’s utility golf carts, Mulligan was discovered by two of our plumbers after enduring a long ride from our White Wing property to the Italian Water Garden. It wound up being a lucky day for Mulligan who was a perfect candidate to fill an open spot in our IPM Cat Program.
“Since he was so young, we decided it would be easier to train him to stay in the area we would like him to patrol compared to an older cat,” explains Susan Cartwright, section gardener.
True to his appointed name, Mulligan earned a second chance at Longwood, joining 14 other cats working in the Gardens.
“I’m so happy we decided to give him a do over.He is very rambunctious and energetic and seems very happy here at Longwood,” says Cartwright.
On your next Longwood visit, be sure to take a trip to the Hillside Garden to welcome Mulligan to his new home.
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Meet the arborists and gardeners that care for our trees and flowers throughout Spring Blooms, and see demonstrations throughout our Conservatory and outdoor gardens.
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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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