The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ Winter Flower Show and Light Garden promises to be bigger and better then ever, every year!. Remember, due to the high volume of visitors, timed ticketing is essential and you can book your visit in advance right here. You won’t want to miss all the decorated fir trees, interactive trains, and thousands of poinsettias. Of course, this is one holiday show in a long line of shows with a gorgeous, rich history.
The first winter flower show was held in 1965. Interestingly enough, it didn’t start until December 18th and lasted all the way until January 12, 1966. The show featured its traditional thousands of poinsettias, Norwegian begonias and unusual orchids. The following year, for 1966’s show, a beautiful nativity scene was moved to Phipps during the mid ’60s from its former home at Mellon Square.
Halfway through the ’70s, the winter show brought more whimsical vibes, with a dozen Douglas firs and fun displays featuring Santa’s sleigh and Little Jack Horner’s Christmas pie.
A decade later in 1983, intricate hand-painted scenes of carolers and ice skaters brought a Victorian vibe to the show. There were beautiful parasols featured amongst a fir tree trimmed with freshly cut flowers and endless landscapes of begonias and poinsettias. Two years after, 1985’s show saw pines, spruces and other Christmas trees decorated to represent items from the “12 Days of Christmas” song. Signs featured throughout the show included cookie recipes from around the world, perfect for us Pittsburghers! In 1987, Phipps kept getting bigger and better, bringing in 20 actual poinsettia trees and dozens of hanging baskets of begonias. There were even life-sized Mr. and Mrs. Claus figures too.
With the dawn of a new decade in 1990, Phipps chose to honor the Pittsburgh Zoo, National Aviary and other treasured ‘burgh places by decorating themed trees with each business. It was also one of the first years Phipps opened the show in November around Thanksgiving. A year later, in 1991, it was the first time Phipps offered candlelight evening tours. There were also topiary reindeer and a majestic poinsettia tree. 1993’s show marked the celebration of Phipps’ 100th anniversary. There were holiday blooms in Victorian style that were popular 100 years prior in 1893 as well as new paint jobs and room repairs. There was also the first display of a 24-foot fir tree in the Palm Court, to the delight of guests. In 1995, the traditional florals were all there, along with wrought-iron angels and a Garden Railroad. It was also the 30th anniversary of the Broderie Room Garden. In 1999, to celebrate the new year (and new millennium), Phipps featured customs from around the world, featuring countries like China and Italy.
In 2000, the celebration returned with a “Gifts Under Glass” theme and plenty of white woodlands, asparagus ferns, Jerusalem cherries and more. Two years later, guests were treated to amaryllis, evergreens and more in displays that were inspired by the Flower Fairy books by author Cicely Mary Barker. 2004’s show, called “Nature’s Holiday,” featured fir trees trimmed with vibrant red amaryllis and a topiary urn. There were also lanterns, an old mill with a water wheel and more. The following year, “One Enchanted Evening” was born with over 2,000 poinsettias and 20 different topiary animals for a magical show. In 2006, the holiday show featured a spectacular 16-foot decorated tree in the Palm Court. There were also crabapple trees and winter flowers in a Thomas Jefferson-inspired room in addition to a gigantic 25-foot tree. Two years afterwards, the Winter Flower Show returned with lush poinsettias, amaryllis, trees and topiaries. It was the first year they were surrounded with Chihuly glass installations.
The next decade begins with 2,000 poinsettias and tens of thousands of LED bulbs. They were combined with topiary snowmen and a twinkling 24-foot Douglas fir. 2011 brought the Nutcracker to life with a candy cannonball battle between toy soldiers and mice, an intricate gingerbread house and a landscape of edible plants like peppermint and cocoa. There was also a snowy forest of snowflakes and floating fairies and more. Come Home for the Holidays was the theme for the 2012 show, with a Victorian-style hearth, topiary woodland and a majestic fir tree. 2012 was also the first year for the Winter Light Garden, which ended up becoming one of Phipps’ most popular holiday features. In 2013, Phipps transformed their Serpentine Room into a light display to mimic the Aurora Borealis. There were also large additions to the Outdoor Garden.
The last few years brought Pennsylvania native Dick Smith’s 1934 carol “Winter Wonderland” to life for the 2014 show. There were sleigh bells, snowmen, a fireplace and more. The outdoor garden was expanded to include a Children’s Discovery Garden. Finally, 2015’s show included items to invoke the theme “Deck the Halls.” There were gorgeous arrangements of LED lights and the outdoor garden expanded even further.
Wondering what this year’s show will bring? Timed tickets for the show are on sale now.
Want to know more about Phipps? Here is a History Of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.