During the Mt Holyoke College Spring Flower Show the entryway to the Talcott Greenhouse is filled with the fresh and delicate fragrance from the plant room to the left. Before you even glimpse the oxalis and daffodils that embody the Emerald Isle theme you feel the arrival of spring in that heady fragrance.
Gail Fuller is the captain of the Spring Flower Show. Her ship set sail last summer. It is Fuller who chose the Emerald Isle theme. She said there is often reference to a country like the Primavera exhibit in 2013 when the emphasis was on Italy. Last year the theme was Hawaii where the flora was more exotic.
Fuller and I walked past the trickling spring set in a green lawn edged with oxalis standing in for lucky four-leaf clovers. Pink glory of the snow (chionodoxa) and petite tulips only six inches tall made a garden any leprechaun would be happy to play in. On both walls of the green house are the ranks of daffodils, hyacinths crocus, anemones, scillas and muscari. Other plants like the canary broom and camellias from the regular collection take their place as supporting players.
I couldn’t help wondering how this magic happens. Nothing is blooming outdoors. What does it take to bring thousands of plants into bloom at the same time when the gray days of winter are still hanging on?
Fuller explained that after the theme is chosen the work begins by ordering spring blooming bulbs that will be planted in pots in the fall. In October Mt Holyoke work-study students help with the potting. They are then placed in a dark cooler and checked weekly for water and temperature. In mid-January the potted bulbs are allowed light and continue to be checked weekly for water and temperature. Temperature must be controlled throughout the process so that all these different bulbs will set buds at the same time. Careful watering throughout the winter is also key.
The Flower Show room is kept very cool when the show is being set up and will remain cool to keep the profusion of happy bloom looking fresh until March 20, the last day of the show.
Of course, visitors to the Talcott Greenhouse will be able to tour the cactus room, the orchid room and the large tropical Conservatory. One of the benefits of visiting a conservatory like the Talcott Greenhouse is the opportunity to enjoy to the immense variety that Mother Nature has created for us. Her exuberant excess would make Oscar Wilde, who said “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess,” very happy. I wandered through the cactus room where there were many varieties of any single plant that I recognized.
Cactus opuntia, the eastern Prickly Pear, which amazed me when I first saw it growing outdoors in the ground on the Smith College Campus, had several cousins visiting together indoors at Mt Holyoke. And that was only one plant!
Once a single plant has opened your eyes and mind to the variety of that single species you are suddenly capable of recognizing, and happy to recognize your own ignorance. That recognition then makes you hungry for more knowledge and more beauties. The Spring Flower Show is a joy, but there is joy to be found in the other rooms as well.
The Mt Holyoke College Spring Flower Show will run through Sunday, March 20. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Show is free, but donations are always welcome. Talcott Greenhouse, which has been operating for over a century, was renovated in the 1990s and it is now universally accessible.
SmithCollege is also holding its annual Spring Bulb Show. This year their theme is the Evil Garden of Edward Gorey, a bow to the late Edward Gorey who lived in Massachusetts and is famous for his darkly humorous drawings. This show will be open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. but will be open until 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A donation of $5 is suggested.
Between the Rows March 12, 2016