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!

1 comment:

Danilo said...

this is a great story, Deb!