Smith College Bulb Show – Giverny Theme
The theme of the Smith College Bulb Show is Giverny, Monet’s famous French garden. Today I was satisfied to be in the Lyman Plant House in Northampton and dream of Giverny.
Smith College Bulb Show
A better close up of Giverny colors.
Smith College Bulb Show
A different view of Room One.
Smith College Bulb Show
An overview of Room Two. Note the water lily pillars and backdrops. The scent of spring in every room.
The Smith College Bulb Show at Lyman Plant House will continue daily, from 10- 4 pm through Sunday, March 22. The Spring Flower Show at Talcott Greenhouse at Mount Holyoke College will also run through Sunday, March 22. Hours are 10 – 4 pm daily.
In the Pink at Lyman Plant House
Banish the winter blues and get In the Pink at the Annual Bulb show at the Smith College Lyman Plant House. This annual show, always fabulous, is running from now until Sunday, March 16.
It is no surprise to me that the powers that be would choose In the Pink as the theme for this year’s show. I love pink, as anyone who strolls down the Rose Walk can attest. But there is something spring-like about all shades of pink from the most delicate aqueous shell pink to vibrant pinks, all of which find their most perfect expression in flowers.
Walking into the Lyman Plant House rooms that are perfumed with the fragrance of an early spring, it is hard to imagine all the planning and work required on the part of the greenhouse staff. I once asked Rob Nicholson, Manager of the greenhouse what it took to open the Bulb Show on the assigned date. His reply was succinct, “Patience and careful monitoring of temperature.” That almost sounds easy.
Of course, there is work to do in the greenhouse all year to keep this wide array of plants from the tropical jungle to the arid desert in good health. I asked if they had to use a lot of pesticides and things to keep the plants in good shape.
“Of course, we’d prefer never to use pesticides, but when a collection of rare and exotic plants is kept in an enclosed greenhouse it sets up a situation where the plants inevitably are infested since they are not in a complex ecosystem where there are checks and balances. When we need to use pesticides we tend to use very mild ones that break down very quickly as we have to be able to allow visitors in the next morning. Pesticides are rated with an REI (re-entry interval) that dictates how soon humans are allowed back into the space so we are limited to those with REIs of 4-12 hours. Then I try to use ‘biologicals’ which are geared to disrupt insect metabolism such as molting cycles, rather than the old style neurotoxin types. We also use insecticidal soaps . . . which suffocated the insect pest. I find the pesticide laws are pretty inconsistent as any consumer can go to any box store and buy materials more dangerous than what we use, and misuse them,” Nicholson said.
I asked if they used neonicotinoids, nicotine based chemicals that have become controversial and are in so many pesticides. He said “The neonics we used were systemic. Granular material is applied to the soil, dissolves and gets absorbed into the plants. They have a long term effect. They were very low toxicity to humans, easy to apply, and worked well to keep our mums clean of mealy bugs.”
However, he added, “There is a lot of concern about this class of pesticides contributing to collapse of beehives. The European Union banned them last year. . . .the pesticide gets into pollen, bees collect the pollen and bring it back to the hive and taint it. As our Chrysanthemum Show in November can attract a large number of bees if the weather conditions are right (and greenhouse vents are open) we felt we could no longer use these on flowering plants that could draw in outside bees.”
Nicholson expressed his concern about the importance of protecting bees which are so vital to our food system. “. . .our country needs to take a hard look at this class of pesticides, do the proper research and then act accordingly.”
Nicholson feels strongly that we all need to be informed consumers, buy as little of any pesticide as possible, and follow instructions to the letter. All pesticides should be stored under lock and key. “As a toddler I drank pesticide stored in a Planter’s Peanuts can in my neighbor’s garage. It almost killed me,” he said. Then he reiterated the necessity to educate ourselves about “a very complex subject and industry,” especially since there are so many pesticides available that are not dangerous to the bees or to our children.
Recently there has been research that suggests acetamiprid and imidacloprid, the two most dangerous chemicals in the neonicotinoids, may cause damage to young children’s brain development. Because I have young children on my lawns from time to time I would never knowingly use products that contain neonicotinoids. That means I wouldn’t dare use common pesticides like Ortho Flower Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer or Knockout Ready to Use Grub Killer which are only two of the many products that contain acetamiprid or imidacloprid. Further information about which products contain these chemicals are on the Xerces Society website,
The purpose of the Xerces Society is to protect invertebrates like bees, butterflies and many other creatures including mussels and crabs. I take Rob Nicholson’s advice to do my research seriously. Education is key, for all of us, and the Xerces Society is one place to start. Of course, I believe that using pesticides on the lawn is totally unnecessary, and agree with Nicholson that there are many safer products to use on plants.
To feel In the Pink, (March 1-16) the Lyman Plant House is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The suggested donation is $2. You still have a week to get there. Talcott Greenhouse at Mount Holyoke College is also hosting a spring bulb show for the next week, through March 16. Hours 10am – 4 pm.
Between the Rows March 1, 2014
Russell Billings at Talcott Greenhouse, Mt. Holyoke
While the rest of us have been shivering in our snowy landscapes, Russell Billings, Director of the Talcott Greenhouse at Mt. Holyoke College, has been busy cooling and slowly warming hundreds of bulbs and other blooming plants coaxing them to a perfect stage of bloom. On Saturday, March 2 the doors of the greenhouse will open to the public to present Primavera, this year’s bulb show featuring glorious tulips and daffodils as well as many plants of the Italian garden, herbs, camellias, oleander, lavender, and box. This year terra cotta Tuscan pots add an extra Italianate touch to the displays.
While we enjoyed a brief period of sun, Billings ushered me into the warm Talcott Greenhouse where the air was fresh and sweet. The room was brilliant with color, banks of cineraria and calceolaria, trays of pale schizanthus with delicate little flowers that I thought looked like tiny irises, as well as those familiar early bloomers, pansies and primroses.
Billings said the week before the show is busy with students and staff moving potted plants out of the working rooms of the greenhouse into the main show room where they will be arranged around a reflecting pool. The brick edged pool is surrounded by a miniature fantasy of fine turf which was grown in flats. “Sometimes we arrange moving water for the bulb show,” Billings said. “People love that, but it is different every year. We have never repeated a theme.”
While it gets very busy in the last weeks before the flower show, Billings said preparations actually begin the summer before. “There is always a theme, and then I order special plants that will work within that theme. We also start to design how to arrange those plants in the greenhouse,” he said.
Tulips in the Talcott Greenhouse
Billings took me into the carefully temperature-controlled cool greenhouse where the tulips and daffodils are just coming into bloom. Remembering the time mice ate tulip bulbs I was forcing in my basement, I asked if they ever had trouble with critters. He said he has had mice enlarge drainage holes in a pot to get to the bulbs, but a bigger problem is with chipmunks and squirrels who get into the greenhouse during the warmer weather.
All the plants are in beautiful condition, but Billings said they did have trouble with whitefly earlier. He does not like to use poisons in the greenhouse. “Horticultural oil takes care of most of the problems,” he said. When he does have to use something stronger he makes sure it is nothing that requires closing up the greenhouse for longer than four hours.
Billings took me on tour of the slightly steamy tropical and subtropical rooms of the beautiful glass house which was completed in 1899. Here is the permanent collection, which includes orchids, cacti and succulents, ferns, begonias, bromeliads, and aquatic plants. The collection is used for study by the students in biology and ecology classes. “We also give a plant to every incoming freshman, usually a jade plant or aloe. I tell them to water only when the soil is dry. But some students are so conscientious that they water once a week or too generously and the plant dies. I’ve been tweaking the planting mix and I think I have something now that drains really quick and makes the students more successful.” He reiterated advice I have heard from other plants people. More houseplants are killed by overwatering than underwatering.
So what happens to the bulbs and other plants after the show closes down? Billings began his career at Mt. Holyoke over 30 years ago on the grounds crew so he is happy to move some of the plants to locations around campus. Others are sold and some are just given away. “People like the tulips and can’t bear to see them tossed. They put them in their gardens at home, but they rarely survive so we just give those away. At least half of the daffodils will bloom again next year.”
The free Mt. Holyoke Spring Flower Show runs from Saturday, March 2 until Sunday, March 17. Doors are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Groups should call 413-538-2116 ahead of time to make arrangements. The greenhouse is universally accessible.
The greenhouse is located right next to the Mt. Holyoke College Art Museum which is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m and Saturday and Sunday from 1 – 5 p.m. A current exhibit, Albert Bierstadt and the Legacy of Concern, features Bierstadt’s luminous paintings of the American west. The greenhouse and the art museum will give you two different types of experience, but both about beauty of the natural world.
Flora at Lyman Plant House, Smith College
The Lyman Plant House at Smith College is also holding its annual Spring Bulb Show March 2 until March 17. Hours are 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. In addition, an exhibit at the Church Exhibition Gallery titled From Petals to Paper: Poetic Inspiration from Flowers will be on view. This display of contemporary poetry inspired by the beauty of nature was created by Janan Scott ’13 and Liliana Farrel ’13, who have both been working in the Smith College Poetry Center for the past two years. The exhibits are free and universally accessible.
Between the Rows March 2, 2013
Daffodils at Talcott Greenhouse
The best place to find fresh spring bloom is to look within the greenhouses at Mt. Holyoke and Smith Colleges. Both colleges are having their annual spring flower shows and giving us the strength to get through these last days of winter.
Primrose at Mt. Holyoke
This looks just the supermarket primrose that I planted years ago and that blooms every spring in the dappled shade in back of our house.
Lyman Plant House display
Could it be that the goddess Flora has found her way to reign over Smith College’s spring flower show?
Pink tulips at Smith College
Tulips are in full bloom at Mt. Holyoke’s Talcott Greenhouse and Smith College’s Lyman Plant House. The exhibit ends March 17. Both exhibits are free and universally accessible. Hours: 10 am – 4 pm.
After visiting the fabulous dispalys of spring bulbs, perennials, and flowering shrubs like camellias I was glad I could come home to my own little spring show. My tulips may not be tall but they are charming. And pink.
Sometimes a chrysanthemum is just a mum, but sometimes a chrysanthemum is Art. Artistically grown chrysanthemums will be on display during Smith College’s annual Fall Chrysanthemum Show which will run November 5-20 in the Lyman Plant House. A $2 donation is suggested. On display will be the stunning chrysanthemum cascades and other skillfully pruned and supported chrysanthemums, some in pillars, and some trained to a single stem with a giant bloom.
Like the spring Bulb Show the Chrysanthemum Show depends on the knowledge of greenhouse staff and students to bring the plants into bloom just in time for opening day by carefully controlling light and temperature. The Japanese style cascades, rarely seen in the U.S., require the patient pinching and arranging of plant shoots through a chicken wire frame to create this stunning effect. The Chrysanthemum Show is a glorious last hurrah to the end of the blooming season.
This year the show will actually begin on Friday, November 4 with A Garden Writer’s Journey, a talk by Paula Dietz, Smith alum, co-founder of the Friends of the Smith Botanic Garden, and author of “On Gardens: Selected Essays.” The talk will be held in the Campus Center Carroll Room at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed by a reception where Dietz will sign her book. The Lyman Plant House will also be illuminated for a preview of the show for attendees.
In “On Gardens” Paula Dietz writes of her experiences over decades in all manner of gardens around the world from the U.S. to the serene gardens of Japan, evoking the sense of the culture and personalities that create gardens, and the way they are used. She uses her knowledge of history, art and literature to bring those gardens and gardeners to life for the reader. I was particularly delighted by the section on parks and public spaces, seeing some of the landscapes that are familiar to me through her eyes and sensibility.
Dietz also reminded me of how important chrysanthemums are to Asians. A couple of years ago I attended a rare exhibit of Kiku, Japanese style arrangements of potted chrysanthemums at the New York Botanic Garden. I saw how the artistry of Japanese gardeners reflects ideals of perfect form and mindfulness.
I also thought of the way the Chinese consider chrysanthemums the iconic symbol of autumn and imagined holding a moon viewing party in September on the night of the full moon, when the chrysanthemums are in bloom. We could search for Chang’e, the beautiful lady in the moon with her companion the jade rabbit, and eat sweet mooncakes.
The organizers of the chrysanthemum show must also be thinking about the place mums have in Asian culture. On Saturday, November 12 at 2 p.m. students in the Culture of the Lyric in Traditional China: Plants and Poetry class will read selected poems in the Church Exhibition Gallery. Chrysanthemum tea will be served. I should say this delicate tea is made with the blossoms of a particular chrysanthemum, not any old hardy mum.
Dan Ladd gourd sculpture
The Church Gallery is also hosting a new exhibit Shaping Plants: Fruits, Shoots and Roots. The artist, Dan Ladd, is exhibiting examples of his collaborations with nature, gourds grown inside molds to become sculptures, and photographs of pruning and grafting trees and plants into unique and whimsical structures. His art has grown out of his fascination with the adaptability of plants. Ladd will be on hand Friday, November 18 at 6:30 p.m. for an informal talk in the gallery.
While working with different plants in a totally different way, Ladd has similar patience and skill in his handling of plants as the Lyman House staff takes in preparing for this show which is such a treat for the broader community beyond Smith College.
Smith College is known for the excellent education if offers its enrolled students, but it is also an educational resource for nearby communities. The perennial and rock gardens that surround the Lyman Plant House contain hundred of plants, all carefully labeled. These labels educate local gardeners about what blooms when, and how late into the season they will bloom, and the exact names of the plants so they can be brought into their own personal gardens.
I have always been impressed by the way the campus acts as an arboretum, with each tree tagged and labeled. When it is time for any of us to add a tree to our own domestic landscape we are often handicapped by our limited knowledge of trees in general, and the trees that will thrive in our climate in particular. A stroll around the Smith campus is all it takes to be inspired, and given the information to choose a beautiful and interesting tree for our own gardens. A guide to the trees is on sale.
This is not the place to describe all the gardens at Smith, but many readers may have ambled along the paths by Paradise Pond and found the Wildflower and Woodland Garden or the Japanese Garden for Reflection and Contemplation. The Capen Garden includes a rustic rose arbor and a gazebo. There is a garden for every mood and season, or search for learning.
The Lyman Plant House is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is wheelchair accessible. A special handicapped parking space is just outside the Plant House entry. Full information about the gardens and planning a visit is at www.smith.edu/garden.
Lyman Plant House at Smith College
Last week I visited the Lyman Plant House at Smith College in preparation for a column and post about the Annual Chrysanthemum Show which begins Friday, November 5 with a talk by Smith alum and author Paula Dietz about the gardens she has visited and written about in her book, On Gardens.
The Smith Botanical Garden and the Lyman Plant House are treasures for the whole community to use. The Lyman Plant House is open every day (except Thanksgiving and the period between December 23 – January 3) from 8:30 am – 4 pm, and the gardens surrounding it are available every day of the year. I was amazed at the amount of bloom.
Actually, I know dahlias are still blooming madly up in the higher elevations. Not only at Smith.
There are lots of labels on the plants in the Botanic Garden, but I could not find one for this beautiful plant, of which there were several wonderful floriferous clumps. Any ideas?
This plant was another mystery. It looks like a regular daisy flower, but look at that foliage – not daisy foliage. Any more ideas?
As a part of the Rock Garden are a number of trough gardens which I think is a wonderful way for any of us to enjoy a few alpine plants.
There is an iron fence that separates the garden from the roadway, but on the road side of the fence there are plantings. Even those passing can enjoy the garden without entering.
This dramatic red planting is at the doorway to the Lyman Plant House. Wow!
I was familiar with many of these plants (not all obviously) but I was amazed to see cactus included in the garden. Hardy in Northampton? I guess so.
Nurseries and roadside stands are filled with tidy pots of tidy chrysanthemums, but I planted a collection of these fall bloomers in my Circle Garden this spring. The chrysanthemum family is so various in form, as well as color, that I wanted to branch out a little. My collection of six from Bluestone Perennials got whittled down to three because of rabbits! Fortunately, a reader suggested black netting which discouraged the bunnies, but ineptly placed as it was, it tangled the plants making the usual pinching and pruning impossible. Still, look at these blooms. Undeterred by the frost we on Wednesday night.
‘Joanette is a quilled mum, which means the petals are like little tubes, which do not show up very well in my photo. “Starlet’ is a spoon mum, which means the tip of the petal is a little spoon shape that narrows down to a rolled tube in the center. This provides a little more interest and fun to the fall garden than a neat pot of fall mums. Don’t you think? These varieties make it clear why the Chinese consider chrysanthemums the symbol of autumn.
To see even more spectacular mums than you will ever find in my garden, click here for my post about the fabulous KIKU exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden two years ago. To see some unusual and beautiful mums yourself be sure and visit the Lyman Plant House at Smith College for their Annual Chrysanthemum Show beginning on November 6.
Lyman Conservatory at Smith College
The Smith College Annual Bulb Show, always spectacular, is one of the ways some of us flower starved gardeners manage to get through the last bit of winter as we wait to get out hands back in the soil. The show opens today, March 6 and runs through Sunday, March 21, when spring will have officially arrived.
This year’s Turkish garden and will feature many species tulips from Turkey. Robert Nicholson, Lyman Conservatory manager, who has been busy for the past three months preparing for the show, says there is a different theme every year. This makes it more interesting and educational for the visitors, “And it makes me learn something new,” Nicholson said.
Although the Lyman Conservatory staff, including two Smith work study students, began potting up bulbs three months ago, Nicholson said preparation for the next bulb show begins in the early summer, after the new theme has been chosen and when bulb orders have to be sent in. “It is really a perpetual process, from preparation to show,” he said.
Those of us who have feared for our daffodils when they come up early in a sheltered spot, only to be doused by spring snow or flood, can begin to appreciation the calculation and management that go into bringing 5000 varied bulbs, crocus, tulip, daffodil, hyacinth, scilla and more, into bloom all at the same moment.
Nicholson explained that he and the staff pot up the bulbs three months before the show, and put them in cold storage where temperatures are kept between 41 and 45 degrees.
The staff knows how long it takes each type of bulb to come into bloom. They remove the bulbs from storage on a reverse staggered schedule. First come the bulbs that need the longest amount of time, and finally the bulbs that bloom more quickly like crocus. There are three production greenhouses, each kept at a different temperature.
The development of the potted bulbs is monitored so they can be moved back and forth between the three greenhouses to bring them into full bloom on time for the show. This is tricky because it is not only temperature that determines how quickly they come into bloom, but sunlight as well.
“This year has been challenging,” Nicholson said. “The weather has consistently been overcast. There have been very few sunny days. We can’t force the bulbs with temperature alone too hard, because the plants will get leggy and floppy. This year the bulbs will probably be at their peak the second week of the show.”
Annual Smith Bulb Show
The week before the show is full of activity. The ornamental elements of the show are put in place on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday the potted bulbs are arranged. Friday is for fine tuning and preparation for the opening in the evening after a free lecture. This year noted public garden designer Lynden B. Miller (Smith ’60) spoke about her new book, Parks, Plants and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape.
“We ask for a donation, but the Bulb Show and fall Chrysanthemum show are two of the best gifts that Smith gives the community. It a wonderful and inexpensive outing for the whole family.” Nicholson said.
Temperatures in the Lyman Plant House are kept in the low to mid-50s during the show. Other rooms in the conservatory will be kept at their usual temperatures; visitors can enjoy all the regular delights of the tropical gardens including a lush collection of orchids.
In addition to the spectacular floral display, the Church Gallery at the Lyman Conservatory is hosting an exhibit, The Inner Beauty of Plants. This collaboration between the Botanic Garden of Smith College, retired radiologist Dr. Merrill Raikes and University of Massachusetts physics professor Robert Hallock is an exploration of light, vision, x-rays and flowers, providing a unique way of seeing plants. This exhibit will run until September 30.
A garden appeals to every sense. This year an audio installation has been added. What Every Gardener Knows, music composed Susan Hiller (Smith ‘61), will be heard in the Lyman Conservatory’s Palm House, one of Hiller’s favorite parts of campus when she was a student. This installation will be in place until March 30.
The Smith College Bulb Show is the beginning of my gardening season. I am also looking forward to the Master Gardeners Spring Symposium on Saturday, March 20, the first day of spring. There will be sessions on everything from designing a permaculture garden, Integrated Pest Management, and wild spring edibles to yoga for gardeners and photographing your garden, as well as a keynote speech by Kerry Mendez on Tips for Low Maintenance, High Impact Perennial Gardens. Logon to www.wmassmastergardeners.org for full information.
Then comes the Boston Flower and Garden Show from Wednesday, March 24 to Sunday March 28 at the Seaport World Trade Center. It is wonderful that after a hiatus the Flower Show is back with a theme of A Feast for the Senses. There are 30 gardens to enjoy, gardening demonstrations, lectures, floral design and growing demonstrations and even cooking demonstrations. One of the special displays this year is The Garden of Cakes. I can’t wait for that. Both my passions in one, baking and gardening. You might even win a weekend in Boothbay Maine with free tickets to the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden. For full information logon to www.masshort.org.
Show runs til March 21
Spring is almost here! There is still time to sign up for the Master Gardeners Spring Symposium at Frontier High School on Saturday March 20 from 9 am to 2 pm. logon to the website or call Bridget Heller at 413-665-8662. You can also still sign up for the Trillum Cutting Garden Workshop in Ashfield 1-4 pm on Sunday, March 21. Full info on the website.
Between the Rows March 6, 2010
A Turkish Delight
Robert Nicholson, Manager of the Lyman Conservatory at Smith College complained about the challenges of all the cloudy weather we have been having, but, once again, he and the crew more than met the challenge of forcing 5000 bulbs to bloom all at the same time. The Conservatory is a Turkish Delight of flower and fragrance, with all the usual bulbs, but also many freesias and delicate species tulips from Turkey.
On Friday evening I attended the lecture by Smith alum, Lynden B. Miller. She described the public gardens she has designed over a long career, and what she has learned about plants that work in public gardens. Fortunately, if you missed the talk you can get all that information in her beautifully illustrated new book Parks, Plants and People.
Lynden B. Miller and her book
After her talk in the new Campus Center, attendees were invited to a preview of the Bulb Show which will run for two weeks until March 21. The Conservatory is open every day from 10 am to 4 pm. A $2 donation is requested.
In addition to the Bulb Show, there is a beautiful and fascinating display of radiography, The Hidden Beauty of Plants, in the Church Gallery of the Conservatory. These exhibit is a collaboration between the Smith Botanic Garden, Dr. Merrill Raikes, retired radiologist and Robert B. Hallock of the UMass physics department. This exhibit will continue until September 30.
Gardens appeal to every sense. This year there is an audio installation in the Palm House, What Every Gardener Knows. This piece by Susan Hillier (Smith ’61) is presented in collaboration with the Smith College Museum of Art. It will continue only until March 31.
The annual Smith College Bulb Show at the Lyman Conservatory will begin with a free lecture by Lynden B. Miller (Smith ’60) in the Carroll Room at the Campus Center at 7:30 pm on Friday, March 5. Miller is a noted public garden designer and will be talking about her new book Parks, Plants and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape. She feels that “beautiful parks and gardens are essential urban oases with economic benefits and the power to transform the way people behave and feel about their cities.” After the lecture attendees can tour the Bulb Show.
Miller is currently director of the Conservatory Garden in Central Park which she rescued and restored, but “her work includes gardens for The Central Park Zoo, Bryant Park, The New York Botanical Garden, Madison Square Park and Wagner Park in Battery Park City as well as many smaller projects in all five boroughs and beyond.” It is heartening to know that as we talk about ‘nature deficit’ in children, we are also coming to acknowledge that people of every age benefit from the beauty and calm of a garden, of natural green space.
In her book, and her work Miller shows us the importance of public gardens, and with luck, will give us new eyes to look at the public spaces in our own communities.
The Smith College Bulb Show runs from March 6 through Sunday, March 21 from 10 am to 4 pm every day. A $2 donation is suggested. In addition to the spectacular bloom there will be an exhibition, The Inner Beauty of Flowers, radiograph and Xray photographs of flowers, and an audio installation of music composed by Susan Hiller (’61) titled What Every Gardener Knows playing in the Lyman Conservatory Palm House.