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Gifts of Gratitude

By Kelly O’Sullivan, on December 6, 2018
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When you look at this year’s Ballroom Tree with its ornate gilded topper and more than 125 meticulously wrapped packages in rich pink and green hues, lobstering probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Interestingly enough, this beautiful tree was inspired by a tree made from, of all things, lobster pots.

Each year, Longwood’s Associate Director of Display Design Jim Sutton keeps and adds to a Christmas idea board to help spur our imaginations for the Christmas display. It’s there on that idea board that I saw a picture of the lobster pot tree. I was immediately taken to New England when I studied the picture and marveled at how I was instantly taken to a place and its culture just from looking at this picture. Why not create a tree that represents the very place—Longwood Gardens—and people—Pierre and Alice du Pont—so dear to us? I thought of how generously Pierre and Alice gave to Longwood and public schools, universities, and hospitals in our region, and how their love for Longwood has continued to be felt throughout the years. I decided I wanted to give them a present (or 125) of their own.

This year, the Ballroom Tree is a representation of Pierre and Alice’s generosity and our gratitude in return. A grand gilded box at the top of the 18-foot Fraser fir represents the gift of Longwood, while the more than 125 elegantly-wrapped presents that spill out of the topper and spiral the tree as a garland represent the depths of Pierre and Alice’s gifts to our region. Rather than put the presents beneath the tree, we decided to reimagine the traditional approach and place them on the tree itself, which definitely proved to be a labor of love.

Meticulously wrapped packages await their big day. Photo by Casey Orlosky.Meticulously wrapped packages await their big day. Photo by Casey Orlosky.

Once we had settled upon our design concept for the Ballroom Tree, we set out to find the perfect wrapping paper. In January we selected wrapping paper by Vivid Wrap of Bath, England. We were immediately taken with the beautiful colors and details of the wrapping paper, as well as Vivid Wrap’s approach to their product, as their wrapping paper is handmade from recycled cotton and recycled kraft papers using the off cuts of cotton from the textile trade.

A close look at one of the Ballroom Tree’s packages shows the level of care put into its creation. Photo by Tyler Bozzuto.A close look at one of the Ballroom Tree’s packages shows the level of care put into its creation. Photo by Tyler Bozzuto.

From July through November, our team gathered every weekend to carefully tape cardboard shipping boxes of all sizes and then perfectly wrap them into works of art. We used hot glue, not tape, to wrap each gift, and embellished many of the gifts with beautiful pine cones, dried hydrangea, greens, Lunaria, and more natural elements sourced from our Gardens. From start to finish, each package took about three hours to prepare and wrap. Reimagining the Ballroom Tree took expertise in engineering as well, as we had to devise a brace with limbs of its own to hide within the tree and support the weight of the presents … what a feat!

Watching this project take life has been nothing short of remarkable. Just as Pierre and Alice du Pont shared so many gifts with the community, we’re so excited to share these gifts of generosity and gratitude with you.

More than 125 packages wrap around the Ballroom Tree. Photo by Duane Erdmann.More than 125 packages wrap around the Ballroom Tree. Photo by Duane Erdmann.

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