tall shrubs decorated in white lights line the walls of a corridor

Shapes that Speak Volumes

By Jim Sutton, Display Designer, on

A Longwood Christmas is, by design, magical … and this year’s focus on shapes has been a designer’s dream. From the vertical line of a towering Fraser fir that brings your eye upward to the star-like details of a poinsettia that draw your eye in, the concept of shape plays an enormous role in design itself … along with other such cornerstone design concepts like light, texture, pattern, color, and scale. For this year’s Christmas display, we drew inspiration from the unique figures found in nature to the iconic contours for which Longwood is known. Take a look with me at just few of the shapes we’re celebrating this season … and you’ll see how in no way, shape, or form is this display like any other ever designed at Longwood.

Among the many nature-inspired shapes we’re celebrating this season is the delicate form of a snowflake. The stunning diversity, symmetry, and beauty of snowflakes is reflected in several elements of our display, including a warmly lit wooden snowflake hovering from above in our Estate Fruit House.

Don't forget to look up while you're exploring our Estate Fruit House ... you're in for quite a treat with this beautiful snowflake. Photo by Hank Davis.

The mesmerizing, layered contour of a pine cone can be found draped among the wreaths and garland at our Conservatory East Entrance. You’ll also find pine cones swathed throughout our staggering 25-foot East Tree. Outside, the 25-foot Gardener’s Tree is adorned with an abundance of gourds, with their full, robust shape beautifully accenting this soaring tree.

Our East Tree is a pine cone paradise. Photo by Zach Longacre.

Looking for more distinct lines? Rectangles and squares, which suggest a sense of order and uniformity, abound throughout our Gardens. You’ll find them in our exquisitely wrapped presents beneath our Ballroom Tree … to the scrumptious pastel marshmallows in the Music Room’s apothecary jars … to the rectangular tokonoma scrolls in our Bonsai Display.

Dating back more than 500 years, the tradition of tokonoma is a dedicated space in a Japanese style reception room, in which items are on display for artistic appreciation. Often this includes a scroll to represent the sky, an accent to reference the earth, and the bonsai to capture the "in between" of the two. Photo by Hank Davis.
Beautiful bromeliads sit regally atop mirrored triangular containers in our Cascade Garden. Photo by Hank Davis.

If you’re looking for twisting, spiraling shapes that evoke a sense of rhythm … you won’t have to look far. For one, our Fern Floor is outfitted in three massive undulating ribbons constructed out of Italian bending poplar and mahogany wood. These gilded forms originate from the 22-foot Exhibition Stage tree and tumble out throughout the iconic Fern Floor space.

Our Fern Floor ribbons playfully twist, turn, and tumble. Photo by William Hill.
Ribbon-like forms can also be found in our Silver Garden, where dainty Tillandsia are nestled in wire cages. Photo by Hank Davis.

We can’t celebrate the shapes of the season without recognizing the beautiful teardrop-shaped crystals in our Ballroom. Dripping in crystal ornaments, our glistening Ballroom Tree playfully complements the Ballroom’s sense of glamour.

The teardrop shape of the delicate crystals on our Ballroom Tree are reminiscent of the massive custom chandeliers and matching scones in the Ballroom. Photo by Zach Longacre.

A geometric take on shapes can be found in the ornaments adorning our Peirce-du Pont House Conservatory tree and our Canopy Cathedral Treehouse.

Geometric diamonds house eye-catching succulents in the Peirce-du Pont House Conservatory. Photo by Duane Erdmann.
These sculptural forms in the Lookout Loft Treehouse are reminiscent of traditional Finnish Christmas decorations called Himmeli, or geometric ornaments that range from incredibly ornate to beautifully minimalistic. Photo by Duane Erdmann.

Circles are everywhere this season and for good reason … their harmonious shape helps bring focus to the elements around them. You can find circles in the form of suspended glass balls in our Tropical Terrace … oversized ornaments nestled among the ribbon on our Fern Floor … luminous glowing orbs in our Meadow Garden along Flower Garden Drive … and whimsical lollipops above the mantel in our Music Room … among many, many other delights.

Wonderfully vivid circular ornaments charm in our Tropical Terrace.

No matter the shape you’re looking for, you’ll find it—and more—during A Longwood Christmas, on view now through January 5.

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