amarylis plant with red christmas balls around them

Shining a (Christmas) Light on Continuing Education

By Timothy Gould, on

Few seasonal displays are as spectacular as A Longwood Christmas. From one jaw-dropping horticultural marvel to the next, Pierre S. du Pont’s grand vision for his garden is on full display, and there is always something new and wonderful to discover. This year is no exception, and alongside innovative design, rigorous science, and cutting-edge horticulture, we are excited to be highlighting another facet of Mr. du Pont’s vision: practical education, in the form of spectacular fresh-cut floral arrangements and intricate botanical art, all proudly displayed in our Conservatory for the duration of A Longwood Christmas.

In 1956, our Continuing Education program debuted with a modest collection of public classes and lectures. The response to the initial offerings was so overwhelmingly positive that a new Education Department was formed to oversee the development and delivery of additional lectures and short courses. Since that time, Continuing Education has served tens of thousands of adult students, professionals and keen amateurs alike, seeking to expand their knowledge and skills in horticulture, floral design, landscape design, the creative arts, and more. Though the classes have changed through the years, the dedication and incredible talent of our students and instructors has remained the same—and we are delighted to showcase their talents, and shine a spotlight on our Continuing Education program, this holiday season.

Throughout the holiday season, each week the Music Room—inspired by a bustling holiday flower shop—will feature a new awe-inspiring, large-scale, fresh-cut floral arrangement, each created and installed by a different instructor from our Continuing Education floral design program. In each floral arrangement you will find reflected the unique perspective and background of the designer that created it, including the arrangement on display during the first week of A Longwood Christmas. Created by floral instructor Tim Farrell, the arrangement featured magnificent proteas and rich colors, fusing tropical and temperate, traditional and modern in a breathtaking focal piece.

“I drew my inspiration from the grandeur of the space, the Conservatory, the Music Room, and the incredible displays of A Longwood Christmas past and present,” notes Farrell. “It was a huge honor to be asked to be part of the celebration. Being part of the opening of the season was extra special.”

In stark contrast to Farrell’s opulent design, the arrangement designed by Ann Perry, a long-time ikebana instructor for Continuing Education, was minimal and elegant, featuring only three flowers and abiding by the rigid principles that guide this unique Japanese style of floral art.

a holiday floral arrangement in a silver vase

Ann Perry’s minimal and elegant arrangement was on view in the Music Room from November 25 through December 1. Photo by Carol Gross.

“My design echoes kadomatsu, a type of arrangement seen throughout Japan during the holidays,” explains Perry. “It features three traditional plants: bamboo, which symbolizes the importance of flexibility in the face of change during the new year; pine, whose evergreen needles symbolize long life; and flowers, which symbolize new life in the new year.” The invitation to participate in A Longwood Christmas was particularly significant for Perry: “I worked at Longwood for over 30 years in almost every facet of the Gardens. The annual Christmas display is so stupendous, it is such an honor to be asked to contribute.”

In addition to Farrell and Perry, four other designers will be featured between now and the end of the season. Shannon Toal’s arrangement, inspired by Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song and starring golden chestnuts and a “fire” of amaryllis and pepperberry, will be on display through Thursday, December 8.

a dozen amarylis blooms in a basket with red christmas ball accents

Shannon Toal’s Music Room arrangement, complete with golden chestnuts, amaryllis, and pepperberry. Photo by Carol Gross.

Cres Motzi’s contemporary tropical nouveau arrangement, highlighting a lush, seasonal mix of tropical and temperate florals and evergreens, will be showcased between December 9 and 15; and Renee Tucci’s reflective design, which features gorgeous white amaryllis, Ranunculus, and orchid blooms set amongst classic evergreen cuttings and mirrored accents, will be featured between December 16 and 22. Jane Godshalk’s first piece, displayed between December 23 and December 29, will feature lush reds and greens, a combination of evergreens, variegated holly foliage, red holly berries, and open red roses inspired by Christmas, while Godshalk’s second piece, to be displayed between December 30 and January 8, will herald the New Year with tropical leaves, arching red and gold Gloriosa flowers, and cascading Cryptomeria set in an art nouveau vase, accented by moss at the top and bottom.

Though all our floral design instructors are professionals, you don’t need to own a flower shop to enjoy one of our floral design classes or even to pursue a Certificate in Floral Design. We have classes suited to every experience level, and many of our students are beginners who discover that floral design is their new favorite way to spend a fun evening with friends. Some even uncover hidden talents or newfound passions after trying something new.  In fact, several of the floral design instructors featured during A Longwood Christmas started their journey as novices pursuing a Certificate of Merit in Floral Design at Longwood, and have since risen to international acclaim. We could not be more thrilled to have these world-class artists, once students here, guiding the next generation.

Floral design isn’t the only Continuing Education program featured as part of this year’s Christmas display. In the hallway next to the Music Room, visitors will find themselves surrounded by stunning, intricate works of botanical art, each created by a Continuing Education botanical art student. The pieces themselves evoke plants from our collections, rendered in a beautiful array of different media during careful classroom study.

a botanical art print in a white frame with wrapped presents below it

A total of 10 works of botanical art by our students line the walls outside of the Music Room this Christmas, including this work of Franklinia alatamaha by Eugenia Trimmer. Photo by Sue Hare.

Diana Tozour’s Anthurium, a gorgeous reproduction of this dramatic red and green tropical plant, is one of the 10 works on display. “Longwood Gardens has been inspiring me and entertaining me since I was a teenager,” says Tozour. “Soon after I retired, I enrolled in the beginners’ botanical art course offered at Longwood Gardens. This piece, created during one of the classes, shows how much I learned while being a student there.”

a botanical print in a brown frame of red and green leaves

Diana Tozour’s Anthurium. Photo by Carol Gross.

Nancy Flanagan’s stunning rendering of Rhododendron maximum can also be viewed next to the Music Room. “To display my art at Longwood Gardens is a dream come true,” shares Flanagan. “One Continuing Education class at Longwood shifted my art journey toward botanical art. I create art to teach others to love native plants and animals, all in the hope that they will also act to conserve our natural world.”

a botanical art print in a gold frame of a pink rhododendron

Nancy Flanagan’s rendering of Rhododendron maximum. Photo by Carol Gross.

Stacie Dale’s watercolor of Ilex Opaca represents her deep connection with Longwood: “I have enjoyed Longwood Gardens since I was a child, and my fondest memories were of A Longwood Christmas, which I visited with my grandparents who were horticulturists and members of the National Holly Society, “shares Dale. I painted this watercolor of Ilex Opaca with fond memories of my time with them and cherish all they taught me about hollies.”

a botanical print of a holly stem

Stacie Dale’s watercolor of Ilex Opaca. Photo by Carol Gross.

If rigorous reproduction of every detail of a leaf isn’t to your liking, you might enjoy plein air painting against the backdrop of one of our iconic outdoor landscapes, or an early morning photography class that provides an opportunity to capture the first rays of morning light in the Gardens. There is a muse at Longwood for every artist, and our expert instructors are ready to guide you each step of the way, whether this is your first time holding a paintbrush or you’ve been honing your photography skills over a lifetime.

a hallway in dark brown wood lined with botanical art prints

The hallway next to the Music Room, lined with botanical art created by students, on view throughout A Longwood Christmas. Photo by Laurie Carrozzino.

Mr. du Pont recognized the critical importance of sharing his garden with the public, as an object of beauty, a source of inspiration, and a place of learning and discovery. We proudly carry this legacy forward in Continuing Education today. With a wide variety of classes suitable for every experience level, there is truly something for everyone, whether you’re interested in honing a skill, pursuing a certificate, or simply having fun with friends. We hope you’ll join us, during the holiday season and in the new year, and discover all there is to learn at Longwood.

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