Nature

Lightscape Brings Dazzling Illuminations To Houston Botanic Garden

Framed is a tunnel made from 20 arches programmed to music.
Framed is a tunnel made from 20 arches programmed to music. Photo by Richard Haughton, Courtesy of Sony Music
Houston Botanic Garden is lit this holiday season. Lightscape returns for its second year, and the outdoor illuminated trail includes immersive installations set to seasonal tunes along a winding path through the Garden. The lights are on display through January 1, 2023.

Favorites like the Winter Cathedral, Neon Tree and Fire Garden will return, along with new creations by artists from across the globe. The artistry of the Lightscape installations is a perfect complement to the natural beauty of the Garden’s diverse plant collections. More than 80 percent of this year’s trail will feature installations never before seen in Houston, including a display titled Bluebonnets, which is unique to Texas.

“It’s a festive light immersion experience with all the trimmings that you would want for a fun holiday night out: music, food and beverages, lots of joyful energy, and exquisite light installations. They truly are pieces of art,” said Claudia Gee Vassar, president of the garden.

One show-stopping installation Framed, by Mandylights, features 20 geometric arches lined with brilliant color-changing, pixel-mapped LED fittings to create a unique tunnel of light effect. Another jaw-dropper, The Nautilus Forest, also by Mandylights, draws from both nature and precise geometry to create an illuminated forest of 24 spiraling trees up to 15 feet tall.
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A field of 2000 flowers come alive at dusk with LED pixel lighting bathing the landscape in bold blue and white light.
Photo by Richard Haughton, Courtesy of Sony Music
An extra element is that the Houston Botanic Garden curated a music list befitting each light installation. Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath The Tree”, Danny Elfman’s “Ice Dance” from Edward Scissorhands, “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” and selections from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite” can be heard along the route.

“We have music that it has been carefully selected to go with each of our installations that work together to create the right mood for each experience. For example, in our fire garden, it will be a calmer holiday song whereas one of our exhibits that has dancing lights will have more upbeat holiday music. The music complements the different experiences that people experience,” she said.

Lightscape offers a different holiday tradition from the usual list of options, and it is filled with holiday fun. (You can only see A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker so many times annually before it becomes droll.) In addition to taking in the immersive light installations on the trail, visitors can enjoy festive food and drinks, along with fire pits for roasting s’mores, in the Garden’s Pine Grove and its Culinary Garden.

The lights’ designs also connect to Houston Botanic Garden’s larger mission to enrich life through discovery, education, and the conservation of plants and the natural environment.

“A lot of the light displays are inspired by plants. The Bluebonnets display is an obvious connection to plant life, and Nautilus Forests is inspired by the trees. There’s a neon tree that highlights the form and beauty of nature. It draws people closer to our plants in the gardens,” she said.
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Bespoke structures with hand-poured candles fill the garden with real fire.
Photo by Richard Haughton, Courtesy of Sony Music
Lightscape is presented by the Houston Botanic Garden, Sony Music and Culture Creative. Both companies work together to create illuminated trails in various venues across the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries.

Lightscape is on display at Houston Botanic Garden, One Botanic Lane, through January 1 on select nights. Entry is from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.; the trail closes at 10 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 713-715-9675, ext. 100 or visit hbg.org/lightscape. $18 - $28, and discounts are available for advance purchase or people with Garden memberships.
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd