Tired of the cold? I recommend attending the Philadelphia Flower Show, where spring is always in season. The week-long exhibition offers a welcome break to the winter-weary, while providing endless inspiration for the garden. We recently joined an enthusiastic crowd for a little ‘Riviera holiday’, while soaking in the sights, colors and smells of the French Mediterranean. Continue reading →
New York City’s Macy’s Day Parade is an American fall tradition with its festive floats, high school marching bands and trademark balloons. But until this weekend, I had never heard of another spectacular show sponsored each spring by the 100-year-old department store. That is, the Macy’s Flower Show; a show so big that it transforms an entire floor of the giant Herald Square building into a veritable garden extravaganza. Continue reading →
Orchids on display at Washington, DC’s Hirshhorn Museum
Every spring, the Smithsonian Gardens and United States Botanic Garden mount a spectacular orchid show for the public. The collaborative exhibition alternates between the two venues and provides different ways by which to appreciate the exquisite flowers. This year’s show is particularly striking because it is housed in the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum whose modern architecture offers a brand new perspective on the exotic blooms. Continue reading →
For a long time, Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens has been my go-to destination for the holidays. The magnificent property features over 1,077 acres of formal gardens, woodlands and meadows that change with each new season. Located at the heart of the gardens is one of my favorite places, the huge glass and steel Orangery. It is here, in this 1920’s-era greenhouse, that my holidays come alive in the horticultural extravaganza known as A Longwood Christmas.
When it comes to inspiring, it doesn’t get much better than Longwood Gardens. From late November to just after the New Year, the Orangery is filled with holiday-themed displays, including hundreds of decorated trees, rare plants and miles of seasonal flowers. Covering nearly four acres of greenhouses, the colorful blooms and exotic specimens are all embellished with millions of twinkling lights.
At my most recent visit, each turn of the corner revealed a new color scheme, plant display and fragrance; a heady combination that made for a constantly changing experience.
This year’s display showcases over 6,000 seasonal plants.
To begin their tour of the Orangery, visitors enter through the majestic East Conservatory. In this huge, vaulted space the predominantly red, white and silver horticultural displays are punctuated by gurgling fountains and tiered pools all linked by rushing streams of water. A warm, earthy aroma mixed with flower fragrances permeates the space.
This year’s exhibit in the East Conservatory features formal flower beds and manicured pathways fringed by generous drifts of fragrant paper white narcissus, euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’, miniature arborvitae, ferns and snow white cyclamen. A permanent display of giant palms and other tropical plants provides the backdrop for the seasonal flowers.
A number of beautiful Christmas trees are situated within the beds and along the walkways.
Close-up of some of the stunning detail on each of the trees.
At the end of the East Conservatory is the largest tree of the exhibit, an 18-foot Douglas fir. The giant tree is encircled by bright green ferns that point up the tree’s deep red ribbons and other natural decorations.
Behind the East Conservatory is the Main Conservatory exhibit. The dramatic space consists of a pair of manicured lawns encircled by seasonal plantings and massive stone columns wreathed in ivy. Giant hanging baskets of scarlet poinsettias are suspended high above the display.
Lawn in the Main Conservatory
On a bright winter day at Longwood Gardens, sunlight filters down through the vaulted iron and glass ceiling and traces a path across the lush borders of this iconic space.
I’ve always loved how, in the far corner of the Conservatory, the color palette shifts from traditional reds and greens to vibrant yellows and blues. This year’s exhibit includes a healthy dose of bright yellow twig dogwoods, orange birds of paradise, miniature lace-cap hydrangeas, soft pink poinsettias and spiky blue coleus.
Directly behind the East Conservatory is Longwood Gardens’ Exhibition Hall. Small jets of water spout from a sunken area in which ‘floats’ a grand central tree decorated in bright red poinsettias and snow white orchids.
The soft purple blooms of bougainvillea growing along the Conservatory’s rafters set up a strong color contrast with the bright red poinsettias.
After the brilliant colors of the main Conservatory, the minty green Acacia Passage provides a cool refuge. It is best known for the lacy tendrils of cinnamon wattle trees that travel up its walls and cascade down from the ceiling. Potted white hydrangeas underplanted with trailing ivy lead the eye down through the narrow space.
Located at the far end of the Acacia Passage, the Orchid Room (part of Longwood Gardens’ permanent display) features over 500 fragrant orchid varieties. An orchid grower replaces plants three times a week to ensure a continuous colorful exhibit.
Orchid vanda ‘Sansai Blue’ hangs in the Orchid Room
A right turn takes you to the Mediterranean Garden, which showcases plants from regions around the world with Mediterranean-like climates. The central tree is decorated in bright-colored balls that echo the warm-climate plantings.
Kniphofia uvaria, commonly known as Red Hot Poker
In the Bonsai Hall, a dramatic red and green wreath hangs in stark relief against the pale grey wall.
At the far end of the Mediterranean Garden is the Palm House, which is designed to resemble a tropical rain forest. The three-layered garden showcases Longwood Gardens’ wide variety of palms, cycads and tropical groundcovers. This tropical tree displays Aglaonema ‘Osaka’ (a variety of Chinese evergreen) on a custom-made form topped with flower heads pulled from Longwood’s palm collection.
Close-up of the Palm House tree
One of the most dramatic trees of all is housed in the Xeriscape garden, a stunning mix of grey, white, silver and red drought-tolerant plants.
Close-up of the succulent tree
At Longwood Gardens, even the mini pitcher plants are decorated for the holidays.
For more information on the exhibit, go to A Longwood Christmas. The display is open from now until early January.
Those of us who live near Washington, DC seldom fail to be moved by the majestic buildings and monuments that comprise our capital city. And the United States Botanic Garden, one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America, is one of them. Now at holiday time comes a special treat: the Garden’s annual tribute to the city’s most famous landmarks constructed from, you guessed it, plants and other plant-based materials.
The eye-catching display is part of the U.S. Botanic Garden’s ‘Season’s Greenings’ holiday exhibit that also features seasonal flowers and shrubs, a garden railway with model trains and a top-notch collection of unusual poinsettias. It was created by Paul Busse (most famous for the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show) and his Kentucky-based firm, Applied Imagination. A team of horticulturalists, botanical architects and landscape designers used over 70 different plant materials to build the sculptures.
Model train passes through a botanical Grand Canyon
Botanical Landmarks On A Mini Mall
At the heart of any trip to Washington, DC is a trip to the National Mall. And the botanical replicas, positioned as they are along the broad walkways and twin pools of the Garden Court, mimic the actual ones outside just a stone’s throw away. Each architectural gem is sited high on a mound from which it overlooks its own pint-sized garden vista.
The crown jewel of the collection, the U.S. Capitol, is located to the left of the Court. Measuring seven feet long, the structure is formed of sycamore leaves, willow sticks, acorns and other natural materials. It took over 600 hours to complete. A peek inside reveals the Statue of Freedom and other figures fashioned from beech nuts, corn husks, acorns and pinecone scales.
Facing the U.S. Capitol on the opposite side of the Garden Court is the Washington Monument constructed from sycamore leaves, sea grape leaves and moss. The Garden’s blue-tiled reflecting pool (one of a pair) stretches behind it.
A gourd forms the dome of the Jefferson Memorial. While inside presides a mini President Jefferson with hair made out of lichens.
Sited at the far end of the pool from the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial features an exterior of sea grape leaves and architectural details made from kangaroo pods, sisal rope and grape tendrils among other materials.
The Library of Congress shines amidst a lush green landscape. Its facade is crafted from elm and locust bark. Sea grape leaves make up the terrace.
Library of Congress
There is even a replica of the U.S. Botanic Garden within the conservatory. Surrounded by hydrangeas, boxwood, pileas, freesias and poinsettias, it boasts a facade made from horse chestnut bark and willow sticks.
U.S. Botanic Garden
Located on the opposite side of the pool from the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court building features a frieze made from beech nuts, acorns and silver birch buds.
U.S. Supreme Court
The White House is encircled by a fence made from screw pod rails and cinnamon tops. Its bas-relief columns are formed of palm frond stems and cinnamon curls. There’s a swing-set in front.
Most people go to Las Vegas to gamble, but recently when I found myself in the city for a few days, I went searching for a garden. I didn’t have to look far. At the heart of the Bellagio Hotel, I discovered a green oasis known as the Conservatory. As befits such a colorful city, it was overflowing with thousands of flowers, intense-smelling shrubs and large, floral-embellished ocean creatures; all part of the hotel’s summer exhibit titled Under The Sea. Continue reading →
Last week in London, British artist Rebecca Louise Law literally turned the flower industry on its head. She suspended 1,200 fresh flowers upside down over the West End’s St. Christopher’s Place. The pop-up display, which was designed to mark the arrival of warmer weather, immersed winter-weary shoppers in a colorful oasis as they drifted head first through the hanging garden. Continue reading →
The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, now in its 30th year, just wrapped up another outstanding exhibition last weekend at the San Mateo Event Center. This year’s show featured large-scale garden installations by top landscape designers, hundreds of individual plant and floral displays and over 200 exhibitors demonstrating the newest in gardening gear, green horticulture and art for the garden. Continue reading →