26 November 2009

And now for something Completely Different...

With winter and Christmas fast approaching I've been knitting like a fiend, trying to whip up a few gifts as well as winter wear for myself (hats, mittens, and toasty socks being high on the list of woolen necessities). Pondering my next project, I had a revelation while working on the Floral Carpet in the main conservatory: why not knit a scarf in the floral carpet pattern? As I filled in the edge of the floral design with ivy, my knitting wheels were spinning; what kind of yarn I'd use, what kind of stitch patterns for which color, how on earth I'd go about charting it all out, once I get that figured out how do I write a knitting pattern anyway, how awful would the back look with all those colors carried over and ooooh wouldn't it be a good idea to knit it in the round with the design on both sides! My fingers were itching for the needle jug!

Well, lest anyone accuse me of being all talk, work on the Longwood 2009 Christmas Scarf of Joy is about to commence (I call it the Scarf of Joy because I am just so happy to have survived Christmas changeover and over-joyous that I get to sleep in for the next four days!).

I've never written a knitting pattern so this is all foreign territory. Cables and seed stitch and moss stitch, oh my! I have a general idea of how I want the finished scarf to look, taking into consideration the elements in the Floral Carpet and their textures, I just have to figure out how to do it! Here's what I have so far:

This is the magnificent Floral Carpet - the centerpiece of the conservatory Christmas display. Thanks to the design intern, Josh, I managed to get my hands on a printout of the pattern, which I then transferred to a graph-lined notebook and started making notes.

Then it was time to shop! I'm not afraid to admit that I'm a yarn snob but for the first time out designing a scarf I didn't want to invest all my overtime pay in five hanks of pricey cashmere (even though that would be oh, so nice!). Since it was already after four on Wednesday afternoon and the yarn shop closes at five and it's a holiday weekend and who knows whether the shop will be open on Friday and I'm really, really, really excited about this project and want to get it started RIGHT NOW, I went to Michael's and found some nice acrylic-merino in roughly the colors I originally imagined.

I figured the gold would be tricky to find but then I saw this yarn by in their Country line and the color was called 'Gilded Age'. Perfect! The yarn is soft and has a bit of a shine to it, which I think will give the scarf an elegant look. The red is called 'Claret' so it isn't the blazing holiday red of the Begonias in the floral carpet but I like the combination of yarn colors. They have a slightly muted, vintage tone. Besides, assuming this little project is a screaming success, who's to say I won't make more in other color combinations.

My tired little brain even took this a step further and thought what a great idea it would be to make the pattern available for sale with all the proceeds going toward my PG class's trip to Spain next year!? Not sure what kind of market there would be for a Longwood Christmas Scarf of Joy but one never knows until one tries, right? After a good night's sleep and a good Thanksgiving day meal, I plan to start knitting. It might take a while, what with all the hats, gloves, socks, and two other scarves commissioned by my dad for gifts, but I think it'll turn out great! And it'll be great show and tell for next month's knitting group!

25 November 2009

The Magic of Christmas at Longwood

I've come to a conclusion: the horticulture staff at Longwood aren't gardeners, they're magicians. Same goes for the folks in all the craft departments (welders, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, mechanics, you name it). Even people who aren't in the Horticulture dept. worked their magic as they contributed to what is affectionately known as Christmas Changeover.

Christmas Changeover is 3.5 days of absolute botanical mayhem as the conservatory and garden displays go from Chrysanthemum to Christmas. I honestly had no idea what it would be like or what extraordinary feats the small army that descended on the conservatory could achieve. Many of us students were assigned to teams that worked in particular areas but I got to bounce around to different teams so I was able to see many areas of the Conservatory displays take shape and come together! Check it out:

DAY 1: Sunday night. The fun started at 5pm.

Before the mayhem commenced, Karl and Lauren demonstrated the fine art of mum deconstruction and composting detail (save rubber cane caps, remove plastic stem clips, cut mum stem at base to separate from root ball, remove bamboo cane, root ball goes to soil bin, herbaceous material in the compost. Repeat a couple thousand times!)

Then everyone scattered and attacked the plants.
After a few hours this is what was left The beds were then tilled and prepared for planting.
The first plants begin to arrive (transporting these Poinsettia standards was no easy task). Once the standards are in place, it's time for the understory of Artemisia absinthium to go in

Moving the boxed citrus trees was a challenge, no thanks to the mum baskets!

The Thousand Bloom, which took over 15 months to train and was on display for only 6 weeks, was whacked!

Hudson takes down the pillar cascades
And Dean and David cart out the rest

Nick contemplates jumping into the hole to hide
By 10pm, the first pieces of the Christmas display are in place.
Day 2: Monday
Lauren looking euphoric amongst the Euphorbia

And Karl is way too perky!

The conservatory bees will see new life at Macy's in Philadelphia
Dan and Leslie work on the Bromeliad tree in the Cascade Garden

Local elementary school kids provide the ornaments for these diminutive trees in the Nectarine House.

The artist's tree is my favorite!
The Mediterranean Garden being transformed to a 'California Patio' (we'll see how CA it looks when it's done!)
Remember that succulent medallion?
Over in the east conservatory, Nate helps install a Christmas tree forest.
Hudson makes the plants presentable.
Lindsay, Gavin, Steven, and Lorrie put them in.
Say cheese, Gavin!
The 28' tall tree in the east conservatory
The blue butterflies are mechanical - the wings move!
Suzanne putting the final touches on one of the many decorated conifers.
The gigantic main conservatory tree is decorated with live begonias.
By evening, Greg is tired
And after a hard day's (and night's) work...Hot delicious pizza for all!

Day 3: Tuesday
Getting the boxed grapefruit trees out the conservatory doors was quite a production. The boxes had to be turned on their sides on top of a stack of pallets to keep the canopy off the ground then the whole thing was squeezed through the doors on a pallet jack.
Bringing in more Poinsettia standards. They have to be kept upright or the weight of the head will snap the main stem. By the third day we all start to go a little loopy

While I was working in Greenhouse Production back in September, I was given this homework assignment: to write up the details about growing the Poinsettia Standards. At Longwood, you never know who might read your homework!

Signage by Longwood. Wordage by me!
DAY 4: Wednesday
On the morning of the fourth day, the last of the mum baskets comes down.
Gavin took charge of this kale tree in the fruit house

By midday, the beds and displays were ready for their debut to the holiday guests

Even the Children's Garden gets a touch of the holiday floral spirit

The silver tree in the Silver Garden. Simple. Elegant. Tranquil.

Christmas cactus baskets in the Acacia Passage
Andy is very proud of his work!

The orchid house wreath

Roll out the Floral Carpet
The centerpiece of the conservatory displays is this Floral Carpet. Placed so that it leads the viewer's eye to the magnificent tree at the far end of the Fern Floor, this botanical runner took four days and a small army to complete.
The empty fern floor, before the carpet frame is installed

Framing is up
Pieces of the carpet begin to arrive

Elements are put into place

A small section is assembled, waiting for the official thumb's up from the designer to continue
Hundreds of plants are handed down into the fern floor assembly line style
And then the magic begins

By lunch time on Wednesday, the carpet was complete and the floor was ready to be flooded. Just add water and viola!

A floral masterpiece!
And in what seemed like no time at all, this....

Was transformed to this...

Happy Thanksgiving!