By Mack Fox
Special to The Communitarian
The sun shone bright through the glass walls of Longwood Gardens’ four-acre conservatory Nov. 10, bringing emphasis to the vibrant colors of its Chrysanthemum Festival and its 80,000 plus blooms.
“They’re all [grown] with lights in the greenhouse across the street because chrysanthemums like no light, ” said employee Suzanne Breiseth. “They bloom when the days are shorter. We bring them out when they are in buds, so that they won’t bloom until we get them out here for the exhibit.”
According to the garden’s guidebook, the methods behind cultivating chrysanthemums into such unique formations originate from Asian traditions. To emphasize this, Longwood Gardens offered Asian inspired celebrations on the nights of Nov. 7 and 8, such as lantern making, a festival parade, performances by dragon dancers, and hundreds of floating lanterns in their exhibition hall.
Volunteers assisted with the striking amount of work. One such individual, who preferred to be known only as “Chris,” said she volunteers several days every month.
“We have 700 volunteers, but they’re not all in the Conservatory,” Chris said. “We have greenhouses, we have outside workers, and we have a potting shed, and we have people who weed. That’s where the 700 volunteers come in. We have many jobs. A lot of them work in the office or the library.”
When the festival opened, visitors were able to stroll through the exhibits, stopping to admire plants, take photos, or have a seat by one of the various fountains throughout the building.
Having opened on Oct. 25 and remaining so until Nov. 23, the festival greeted visitors right through the front door with its Thousand Bloom Mum, which boasted more than 1515 white and yellow flower blossoms on a single plant.
“It’s the biggest that’s ever been done here,” Breiseth said. “In this hemisphere it’s the biggest to be grown. Last year our bloom was 1365. Each year we get more on one plant. It’s the most labor intensive [display]. That’s why it’s 17 months in the works.”
In addition to the white and yellow petals of the Thousand Bloom, the room was aglow with oranges, pinks, scarlets, purples, and reds that showed off the great diversity of the chrysanthemum. Across the room a different display showed 114 different varieties of the flower grafted onto the same plant. From the ceiling hung chandeliers compiled of many potted-plants to form colossal cascading shapes.
Further down the Conservatory halls, another display served to distinguish the 13 different classifications of chrysanthemums: Irregular Incurve, Reflex, Regular Incurve, Decorative, Intermediate Incurve, Single and Semi-Double, Pompon, Anemone, Spoon, Quill, Spider, Brush and Thistle, and Exotic or Unclassified.
Throughout the hall’s conservancy were numerous additional displays, showcasing the diversity of the chrysanthemum from both the ground level floor to the bloom covered pillars and the displays suspended overhead.
The main building, Breiseth said, has been in place since it was commissioned by Pierre duPont in 1921, and some of the flowers and other plants have been there just as long, though their exact identifications are kept secretive to protect them.One might think that a great deal of work had concluded for Longwood Gardens, but the staff is already preparing for the next exhibit.
“It’s the same with the Christmas design,” Breiseth said. “Next year’s Christmas design is already in the works.”