Just before Thanksgiving, the Fellows ushered in the holiday season by helping with Longwood’s Christmas Changeover in the conservatory. The Changeover replaces the Chrysanthemum Festival with all the elements of A Longwood Christmas in just a few days’ time – a massive undertaking!
The Thousand Bloom Mum in all its glory at the beginning of the Chrysanthemum Festival
To do their part, the Fellows take apart the show-stopping pinnacle of the festival: the Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum. A spectacular work of living art, this year’s mum sported over 1,400 flowers and took seventeen months to grow and train. This feat is managed by Longwood’s talented mum specialist Yoko Arakawa and her team of skilled horticulturists.
Because a new Thousand Bloom Mum is grown for each year’s festival, the old one is cut down at the end of the season to save valuable resources and greenhouse space. Although this may seem wasteful, the giant mum is composted along with the other plants removed with the conservatory so that it can later be used to nourish future generations of flowers.
Longwood mum specialist Yoko Arakawa demonstrates how to separate the flowers from the plant. Each flower must be removed before the frame can be disassembled
It took nearly three hours for the ten Fellows and several other Longwood staff members to dismantle the magnificent beast. Starting by removing the flowers within arm’s reach, the group quickly progressed into using ladders, pruners, and wire cutters to untangle the plant from its frame.
Fellows and staff clip away at hundreds of flowers on the mum
First Year Fellow Tracy Qiu and Second Year Fellow Fran Jackson take apart the plant from the inside out
Once the lower branches have been cleared away, the rods that give the frame its shape can be removed
With the last of the mum carted off to compost, Yoko and Second Year Fellow Keith Nevison finish taking apart the rest of the frame. The frame will be stored in pieces until the mum for next year’s festival is big enough to train
Water features now stand in the place of the Thousand Bloom Mum for the fountain-themed Longwood Christmas
Despite the initial pain of deflowering such a beautiful plant, the group took heart in the excited buzz of holiday preparations going on throughout the rest of the building. A Longwood Christmas 2016, on display until January 10th, is a truly spectacular sight.
Happy Holidays from the Longwood Graduate Fellows!