The Sounds of the Season: It’s Christmas at Longwood!

Happy Holidays from the Longwood Graduate Program!

Each year, A Longwood Christmas invites guests to experience a garden transformation like no other. Featuring intricate design, holiday cheer, and horticultural excellence, this year’s theme, The Sounds of the Season, resonates throughout the indoor and outdoor gardens during this musically-inspired display.

This year's theme: The Sounds of the Season

This year’s theme: The Sounds of the Season

As Longwood’s most popular season, thousands flock to the conservatory to take shelter from the cold and marvel at the elaborate sights. If you’ve ever found yourself stopped in your tracks when greeted with an indoor display and wondered, “How on earth did they do that?”, you’re not alone! Thanks to the LGP’s Mentorship Program, which pairs each Fellow with a Longwood staff member, I consulted Jim Sutton, Display Designer and my mentor, on this very question. The short answer: it takes a village, specifically a Longwood village.

As a mentor, Jim understands the importance of highlighting lessons in project management through experiential learning opportunities at Longwood. When it comes to preparing for and installing A Longwood Christmas, the lesson is clear: communication and teamwork. This is exemplified in one of this year’s grandest features, a two-story Christmas tree displayed on the Fern Floor in the Exhibition Hall. Supporting over 1,000 potted poinsettias, orchids, ivies, and ferns, if you look closely you will find it’s not a tree at all! In fact, it is a modular structure designed, constructed, and maintained by numerous teams of Longwood staff.

While Jim and Display Design intern, Greg Schival, produced the concept and drawings for the tree, Longwood’s carpenters and metal shop brought the structure to life, building each section like a puzzle piece able to lock in and come apart. Meticulously crafted with safety in mind, the tree’s base is comprised of wood and rests on the floor. Its top, however, is a separate metal piece suspended from the ceiling and secured through a base within its counterpart. Outfitted with lights and irrigation, Koa Kanamee, Senior Gardener, made sure plants were added in a top-down fashion to preserve a finished look throughout the installation process.

Longwood’s strong culture of teamwork has been bolstered in recent years with another Mentorship Program, one specifically designed to support the Horticulture staff in the Christmas season. Voices and talents from throughout the gardens form a network of committees, collaborating among themselves and with one another, to create the wonder that is A Longwood Christmas without losing site of the nuances that make for an enchanting guest experience.

Make your plan to visit A Longwood Christmas: Sounds of the Season today!

Make your plan to visit A Longwood Christmas: Sounds of the Season today!

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The Holiday Season Has Arrived!

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.

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 gives a demonstration on how to separate the flowers from the plant. Each flower had to be removed before the frame could be disassembled.

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

Fellows and staff clip away at hundreds of flowers on the mum

First Year Fellow Tracy Qiu and Second Year Fellow Fran Jackson begin taking apart the mum from the inside out.

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.

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 being 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 start training.

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, on taking place now until January 10.

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!

Happy Holidays from the Longwood Graduate Fellows!