Longwood Gardens and artist Bruce Monro lights up summer nights in Pennsylvania

KENNETT SQUARE, Penn., June 27, 2012 — Longwood Gardens, the 1,077-acre horticultural masterpiece in the Brandywine Valley designed by Pierre DuPont in 1906, has launched itself into a new era with its latest exhibit, a light installation by British artist Bruce Munro.

For Munro’s first solo show in the United States, he employs the vast gardens at Longwood as his canvas, installing a series of illuminated tableaux throughout the property. 

arrow spring on the flower walk lawn (image © mark pickthall)

arrow spring on the flower walk lawn (image © mark pickthall)

By day his work is all but invisible (though if you look closely you may spy a grouping of light stems or wires), but as the sun recedes Munro’s work slowly emerges from the dark corners of the garden.  When night falls, a glow from the far reaches of Longwood calls like a siren.

The concept of utilizing light to facilitate an emotional connection to the gardens is very much in keeping with the spirit of du Pont, who often hosted nighttime parties that included colorful firework displays.  And, after 1930, when he installed fountain gardens that were inspired by the great castles of Europe, du Pont invited guests to attend light shows, where as many as 600 illuminated jets of water were choreographed to dance.

Munro has wisely avoided gilding the lily, steering clear of the splashiest aspects of Longwood, like the lavish European-style fountains.  He draws visitors like a pied piper of light to quieter corners, like meadows and forest floors.

A placid pond is adorned with “lily pads” that Munro has fashioned from compact disks.  Dusk is the best time to view this display as the iridescence of the CDs pings off the waning sunlight.

The LED water towers pulse through different colours in synchronization with a musical score (image © mark pickthall)

The LED water towers pulse through different colours in synchronization with a musical score (image © mark pickthall)


Alongside Lookout Loft, a sprawling tree house with ramps and a resident beehive, awaits one of Munro’s most compelling light displays.  As evening sinks deeper into night thousands of small lights emerge like sprites from the forest floor.  A path, rarely taken by day, becomes an irresistible draw, pulling visitors further into the depths of the forest, creating a mesmerizing and eerie experience.

One of the most arresting and emotionally powerful Munro installations is found at the far end of the property in a meadow near Hourglass Lake.  Recycled plastic bottles are piled atop one another in cylinders.  By day, this grouping in the field resembles a wait station at a recycling plant, but at night, these hulking masses become a colorful glowing maze that children scamper though.  Here music, like powerful African chants and Zen-like spiritual instrumentals, envelops visitors.

Inside the Conservatory with its arresting displays of bold colors, massive fronds and dazzling water features, Munro treads lightly, treating this awe-inspiring space with deference.  He has wisely decided to complement rather than compete with the abundance of natural beauty that’s housed here. A cascade of light that sparkles above the plantings results in a mirror-like effect, sending the eye darting between the plantings below to the light above.

Munro’s treatment of the gardens is deft.  Although modern in its materials, it is very much in keeping with the spirit of Longwood Gardens’ heritage.

In the end, Munro’s light exhibit, which runs until September 29, is right on point, honoring du Pont’s vision for a space that at once celebrates horticulture and culture, the natural world and humans’ impact upon it.

See more images of the exhibit at DesignBoom.com

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

More from Travel the World
blog comments powered by Disqus
Andrea Poe

Andrea Poe is a veteran journalist, whose work has appeared in thousands of publications, including Town & Country, Marie Claire and Entrepreneur.  She is the author of several books and her work has appeared in many others, including anthologies and college textbooks. 

Andrea serves as editor of the Travel & Food section at The Washington Times Communities.  Her love of travel has led her to cover everything from remote villages in the Andes to her hometown of New York, from Paris to Pittsburgh, from Beijing to the Bahamas.  No matter where she travels, she likes to uncover the unusual and share with readers those often-overlooked aspects of a place and its people.  She dubs her column Raven’s Eye as a nod to her illustrious (and, yes, infamous) relative, Edgar Allan Poe, a writer who knew more than a little something about the quirky and unique.  

Andrea is also mother to Maxine, who was adopted from Vietnam in 2006, and is the inspiration for The Red Thread column on adoption at The Washington Times Communities.   Andrea is currently at work on a book on international adoption.

In addition to her work as mother, writer and traveler, she is the founder and president of Media Branding International, a consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations craft and promote their image in media outlets around the globe.

Find Andrea at andpoe@Twitter, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Contact Andrea Poe


Please enable pop-ups to use this feature, don't worry you can always turn them off later.

Question of the Day
Photo Galleries
Popular Threads
Powered by Disqus