When we entered the Conservatory at Longwood Gardens, it was about 4 p.m. and still light outside. When we walked out into the cold evening an hour later, the grounds were stunningly transformed. Hundreds of trees clothed in colored lights, festive fountains dancing to Christmas carols, lighted red and white orbs overhanging walkways, kids and adults alike with their mouths agape.

Click to view a gallery of photos.

Longwood Gardens is only 84 miles from our house, but we decided to stay overnight nearby so we could enjoy the famed nighttime light show of “A Longwood Christmas,” which wraps up January 6. “Orchid Extravaganza” is next, beginning January 19. We have been to Longwood several times, always when it is freezing. There are several distinct seasons that include orchids, spring flowers, fountains, fireworks and fall – not just Christmas.

Longwood has year-round programs for students and adults, including some photography classes (imagine having the place to yourself). Longwood, with 1,077 acres, is one of those legacies of the DuPont family unique to northern Delaware and the Chadds Ford-Kennett Square region of southeastern Pennsylvania. Whatever you may think of amassing a fortune from gunpowder and chemicals, these folks were genteel and public spirited and they left a lot of good stuff behind.

I am not here to recap the history of the DuPonts and Longwood Gardens. The website is excellent, so have at it. I have been so disheartened by the crassness, incivility and greed rampant in our culture and, folks, Longwood and places like it are part of the cure. Beauty, nurturing, patience and awe are down every pathway and within every nook and cranny of the Conservatory. There are bonsai trees that have been trained since the early 1900s. Creativity and creation itself are in abundance, along with a healthy dose of whimsy. It smells like the primal richness of earth here.

Longwood Gardens, Winterthur, the Brandywine River Museum, Delaware State Parks, Delaware Nature Society  They are organizations that exist to conserve, cultivate, nurture, delight and remind us that we are much more as members of the human race than our Facebook posts and our politics. Boy, do we need them now.