Lighting the Night

Seasonal displays at regional botanical gardens

[ED: updated for the 2018 holiday season]

For some, the highlight of the holiday season is the feasting. Others rejoice in gifting (and receiving). But, like many—judging from homes in my neighborhood—I revel in the lights. Here in the Pacific Northwest dusk falls around 3:30 every afternoon and we don’t see dawn until 7:30 the next morning. Long winter’s nap indeed! Blazing holiday lights and illuminated displays get me through these last few weeks until the Winter Solstice when slowly (oh sooo slowly) the days begin to lengthen.

Several regional botanical gardens throughout the West feature seasonal displays that touch my gardener’s heart while casting a magical light on this darkest time of the year.

Garden d'Lights at Bellevue Botanical Garden.

Garden d’Lights at Bellevue Botanical Garden.

Every year more than a half million lights transform Bellevue Botanical Garden into Garden d’Lights, a dazzling wonderland of blossoming botanicals and garden critters. The spectacle opens Saturday, November 24 and runs daily through December 30, 2018.  For details about the display, accessibility issues, and ticket information visit the BBG website here.

Holidays at Filoli 2018

Holidays at Filoli 2018

In the Bay Area, check out Holidays at Filoli – this year’s theme is Luminous – a Celebration of Color & Light that runs through December 23, 2018. Enjoy light displays in the garden as well as throughout the historic home. Special holiday docent tours, holiday events, shopping, and a Winter Solstice Fete on December 20. Details and holiday hours at Filoli.org.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden Festival of Lights. Photo: Brendan McGuigan

Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden Festival of Lights. Photo: Brendan McGuigan

The Festival of Lights 2018 at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (MCBG) is a holiday tradition for the entire community with tunnels of light and luminaria-lined pathways. Garden- and sea-inspired vignettes delight and enchant visitors of all ages. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, through December 16, 2018. Doors open at 5:00pm. Additional details and ticket information at www.gardenbythesea.org.

Garden of Lights at San Diego Botanical Garden. Photo: Rachel Cobb

Garden of Lights at San Diego Botanical Garden. Photo: Rachel Cobb

Even sunny Southern California lights up the season with Garden of Lights 2018 at the San Diego Botanic Garden. Sparkling lights outline trees and shrubs in the collection illuminating the structure of the garden in a fantastical manner; this is the only time of the year you can tour the garden at night. Marshmallow roasting, kids crafts, music and entertainment, and even snow (!) create magic for everyone. Garden of Lights runs December 1-23 and 26-30, from 5-8:30 each evening. Visit www.sdbgarden.org for details including “chance of snow” in the forecast.

Magical Lantern Art Festival. Photo: courtesy LA County Arboretum

Magical Lantern Art Festival. Photo: courtesy LA County Arboretum

And for those of you in the Los Angeles region, don’t miss the Moonlight Forest, Magical Lantern Art Festival at LA County Arboretum. Magnificent lantern art depicting exotic animal, shimmering flowers, and whimsical animals set the night aglow now through January 6, 2019; Wednesday through Sunday, 5:30-10pm. Details at arboretum.org.