Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Spirit

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.

No, that’s not my voice.


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.


  1. Thank you!
    A lovely, inspiring trip.
    I think we all need to soothe
    our hearts with light and cheer,
    and this served quite well.

    1. Thank you; I'm glad it helped.

  2. Beautiful! Thank you so much for posting this. David and I were in need of Christmas cheer tonight. We drove around our little town in search of Christmas lights without success.

    1. Folks probably figure with all that gorgeous natural scenery, who needs to add to it? :)

  3. I agree - there's such a thing as too much preoccupation ...

    Beautiful lights. One of my favourite parts of the season. And - no wonder you have the blahs with Miss Chef not able to be there to share Christmas. Will you be celebrating a different day? Will there be feasting? Have to get it put on my calendar, if so, in order to tune in and drool :)

    1. Yes, we'll be celebrating Three Kings' Day with friends...and a couple of roast ducks. :)

  4. So much darkness around us. We all need warm, cheerful lights like these to cheer us and help us focus on the beautiful things and people around us. Joyeux Noël, Alison! Hugs to the pooch.

    1. Merci--Rosie has been getting a good bit of hugging lately.

  5. Thank you for the "escape", I really needed it.

    The gardens and decorations are so beautiful. Glad you and Miss Chef could spend the time together.

    xo jj

    1. Me too...the ensuing week has been stressful, too, so a nice pause was in order.

  6. I'm so sad you and Miss Chef won't be able to spend Christmas together! How smart of you to squeeze in some shared festive time now while you can.

    The Butchart Gardens in Victoria has a great Christmas light display - it must be how they keep people coming in through the winter months! We're scheduled for a visit there with my folks on Christmas Eve - you have inspired me to try to take some photos!

    1. Good luck with those photos--it's hard! Take a tripod along if you have one.

  7. That Daniel Stowe fellow has been busy! Thanks for taking us on this tour. Miss Chef will miss you just as much as you miss her. If you were anywhere close to me, I'd be putting lights around your neck and feeding you pie. Sending you hugs instead.

    1. I doubt Miss Chef will miss me quite as much--she's got three nieces under 10, plus a bit of a family reunion.

      Mmmm, pie. My waistline is glad you are not close. :)

  8. Hi Alison, I heard back from Kate and she said dogs are fine. You can drop her an email at

  9. I forgot all about Stowe this year. We went prior years and really enjoy it. It's been a real busy time of year.

    1. It's so much better in person!


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