Silver Christmas

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Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

Longwood Gardens goes gonzo at Christmas and people eat it up. It's fun to watch people's glasses fog up as they enter the conservatory, and their eyes get big when they finally clear up and look around. There's the traditional floral carpet - 85 feet long, with more than 1,000 living plants. including Barkos red begonias, 'Enduring White' poinsettias, green moss and English ivy, plus 5,000 gold-colored pine cones. The tree is actually decorated with begonias. It's a red and green explosion, quite nice. But it was the other tree - the 28-foot Douglas fir with the 800 blue morpho butterfly ornaments on it that caught my eye. In their native South American rainforests, these butterflies use their iridescent wings to confuse and excape from predators. A very cool display, despite a color scheme (silver and blue) that easily translates into a trashy, artificial look. Not here. In addition to the striking butterfly ornaments, which seemed to be on a timer to flutter at different times, the tree has white manzanita branches and silver bay laurel garlands. I saw yet another interesting Christmas tree, this one outside and called "the allee holiday tree."  Its ornaments were white painted seed pods from the catalpa tree. Gives a girl ideas.

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