I’ve been having an unusually hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. Perhaps I’m not feeling it because Miss Chef will not be here—she wasn’t able to travel at Thanksgiving, so will be with her family on Christmas, leaving me and Rosie to wassail the yule (or something). The weather was not helping either, wandering around in the 60s under low-slung gray clouds. Bah, humbug. And of course recent tragic events—both local and distant—certainly put a further damper on any Christmas cheer*.
However, Miss Chef and I had made plans earlier this week to go to Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens to see the lights. This is the third year I’ve been (I think), but Miss Chef always had to work on those evenings. December is not a forgiving month for the chef’s schedule, and even though she’s not technically working at the restaurant any more, she is still lending a hand here and there—plus it’s finals week at school. Which is all to say that after a busy week with not much time together, I was looking forward to this evening for the two of us.
*I don’t wish to gloss over or make light of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, but the airwaves--and our minds--are already so over-saturated that I really don’t feel I have anything meaningful to add. Allow me to offer you this bit of escape.
The botanical gardens are only about 15 minutes’ drive from us, though probably a good 30-minute drive from uptown Charlotte. The long, winding entry road is also decorated as you drive in, but as I was driving, I didn’t have the chance to take pictures.
The walk from the parking lot to the main entrance building is worth a stop and shot, though.
Unfortunately, all the photos I took were with my phone, since I neglected to make sure Miss Chef made her camera available for me. (Notice how I didn’t blame her for leaving it on her desk at school? Isn’t that understanding of me?)
I was a bit surprised to see a short line at the door, but it gave me a moment to take this photo and wonder if this is a noun or a verb…
The main pavilion is designed to recall gracious Old South plantation-style architecture. I’m sure any southern belle would appreciate the opportunity to decorate her home with a tree like this.
It must be at least 15 feet tall, and is entirely composed of orchids and tropical greenery. Sorry I cropped off the top; it was hard to get the whole thing in the frame! Also, it was hard to get a picture without someone in front of it. This will be the background for more than one family Christmas card, judging from some of the picture-taking I witnessed.
Beyond this atrium with the tree is an open, round room with a piano magically playing by itself. It’s a new generation of player piano, controlled electronically. I caught the last few seconds of one of the pieces of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite to share with you:
Miss Chef had already procured us a cup of spiced cider and one of hot cocoa, so we were ready to move on outside. We first went to a small garden lit all in white, with an enormous tree behind it dangling blue snowflakes. There was even special lighting to give the illusion of falling snow.
We wandered on through an arbor draped with wisteria created from green and purple lights, open areas guarded by tin soldier forms, and pathways lined with daffodils, sunflowers and others created from lights.
I’m not a big fan of bottle trees, but they take on a whole different aspect when they’re all lit up!
The pièce de résistance of the whole garden is a long promenade along a narrow channel of water, ending in a towering fountain of water. Naturally, it’s difficult to get a good picture without a tripod, but I did my best (with a little post-production help from the computer).
Here’s a picture of the fountain and the two trees behind it—palms disguised as evergreens! I really like the seagull sculpture, too.
We wound up our visit with a turn through the orchid conservatory—which has a lot more than just orchids. For instance, if anyone offers you a Madagascar palm tree, you might think twice before accepting.
There were no lights in here, though other seasonal decorations abounded.
My favorite part of the conservatory has to be the wall of orchids, complete with miniature waterfall.
None of my other indoor shots turned out very well, so I’ll leave you with this of the outside of the conservatory.
Including a browse through the gift shop, we spent nearly two hours there, but it didn’t seem like a very long visit. Maybe next time we’ll spring for the horse-drawn carriage ride and see what other sights the gardens have to offer.