Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday: Bellevue's Garden d'Lights

One of several large garden scenes at the Garden d'Lights in Bellevue, Washington on 27-December-2008

BELLEVUE, WASHINGTON - Back in 1994, the city of Bellevue's Botanical Garden was looking for a way to expand its attendance during the winter months. They decided to use some holiday lights to make a replica of some of the plants in the garden so that they could be seen after dark during the shortest days of the year. While a modest display that year, the Garden d'Lights has returned and gotten larger each year.

A frog was reflected in a pond in Bellevue's Botanical Gardens during the Garden d'Lights on 27-December-2008

The display has gotten so large now that it includes over 500,000 lights; some individual plant lights contain 15,000 LED's. Besides plants that exist in the garden and those that would not survive in a Pacific Northwest climate, there are now a variety of birds and other creatures across the gardens, even including a spider and the ultimate northwest garden icon, the slug. Classes are now held each spring and fall to train volunteers in how to make the displays, adding to the collection each year. About the only thing that is not found in fervently secular Bellevue are any signs of the holiday season at all, unless one counts a poinsettia as a holiday symbol.

The snow provided a special backdrop to the Garden d'Lights on 27-December-2008

An unexpected attraction of this year's display was about a foot of snowfall. The snow closed the event for about a week before Christmas Day, but it has now re-opened with the white background of the snow making for a very different feel than the normal annual display, providing another reason to attend besides seeing what has been added since last year.

The view from the educational center parking lot of just a portion of the Garden d'Lights on 27-December-2008

The Garden d'Lights is located near Main Street and 124th Ave NE in Bellevue, Washington with the lights on from 5 pm to 10 pm through Saturday, January 3rd. The event is free unless one chooses premium parking for $5; parking at the Bellevue School District Headquarters across the street for free is recommended as the lone crosswalk from that parking lot is guarded by a policeman.

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