Longwood Gardens, in the Brandywine region of Pennsylvania, is spectacular any day you visit, but for a really enlightening experience, be sure to go one evening before the end of September to witness the extraordinary large-scale light installation by British light artist Bruce Munro. His first garden installation in the United States is breathtaking — picture a maze of 69 columns of light made up of 17,388 recyclable one-liter plastic bottles filled with water and fiber optic wires that change color to the tune of an accompanying soundtrack. He’s committed to sustainable practices, with many of his works using as little wattage as a lightbulb or a microwave oven.
Walking through the gardens at night provides a whole new experience, although a bit of an eerie one. (I have to admit, as a city girl I was slightly taken aback by the barely lit paths and the sounds of countless insects chirping in the void.) Long dark passageways are brightened by glowing orbs that resemble flowers, like in the Forest of Lights, where 20,000 “stems” shine in the night.
The conservatory was also transformed by Munro’s hand, with six majestic Snowball Chandeliers, each made of 127 uniform glass balls that change color in unison.
The Light Shower, also in the conservatory, casts a delicate rain storm of 1,650 teardrop-shaped lights over the flooded Fern Floor.
The Field of Light, consisting of 7,000 frosted glass spheres, dazzles from a distance across the small lake.
Though not technically part of the Munro exhibit, the water lily pools outside the conservatory provided a glorious look at night-blooming water lilies, romantically lit to bring out their beauty.
The exhibit is up through September 29, 2012. Visit longwoodgardens.com to purchase timed tickets; the garden is open till 11 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday during the show.
All photographs by Kathleen Kent