A greenhouse full of pink to banish the wintertime blues: Smith College bulb show opens

Monday, June 02, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — For Rachel Lord, weaving through the narrow passages in the Botanic Garden of Smith College greenhouse among 5,000 bulbs that planters coaxed into early bloom was part business and all pleasure.

She had her 6-month-old baby, Sadie, cradled in one arm, and with the other she was taking photographs on her cellphone. Later this week she returns home to Alaska, where she and her husband, Ben Gibson, raise and sell cut flowers. The name of their enterprise is Alaska Stems.

“We’re taking pictures of labels and things that we might want to grow ourselves,” Lord said. “This show is beautiful. It has an incredible number of varieties and color and great smells. It’s fabulous.”

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She was in Northampton to visit family, and the opening day of the Spring Bulb Show, with this year’s theme of “In The Pink,” was a bonus. She expects to start harvesting tulips in late April.

The bulb show continues through March 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Saqib Zulfiqar, originally from Pakistan, drove out from his home in Westborough with members of his photography club for the show. He, too, found the smell of the show as enticing as the riot of color that greets the eyes.

“Flower smells evoke happy emotions,” he said, and it’s something he misses during the winter. “You don’t smell that a lot at this time of year, but when you do you feel jubilated.”

As a photographer, Zulfiqar wanted to get to the show on the opening day while the flowers were at their freshest.

For Stephane Laroche and Jillian Vanzee, who drove out from near Boston, the bulb show was an economical alternative to a Caribbean vacation. The day trip was “a break from Boston and a break from winter,” Vanzee said. They found out about it by Googling “flower events.” It was their first time in Northampton.

The bulb show is “a little bit of spring in the middle of winter,” said Smith College senior Hannah Schiff, who was shooting several rolls of black and white film that she would be developing in the darkroom for the rest of the weekend.

She hasn’t been a big fan of this particular winter. “It’s cold, it’s awful,” she said. The bulb show “arrived just in time” as an antidote to cabin fever.

Matt Grizich of Fitchburg, who was there with his partner, Barbara Edsall, agreed. “It gives you a sense of hope,” he said. “I’m ready for winter to be over and this gives you a little boost knowing it’s going to end sooner or later and then you are going to finally get out and do your own gardening.”

This year’s pink theme meant that tulips carried much of the show, according to Edith King, who as been volunteering at the Botanic Garden for five years.

“We are featuring many bulbs of all different types that have pink hues and pink shades and gorgeous pink colors,” King said, adding that daffodils are mostly yellow but horticulturists have come out with variations that have pink.

“Unless you have them in your garden in the right light you don’t get that nice intense pink that we can sometimes eke out in the greenhouses,” King said.

She estimated 300 to 500 people would wend their way through the show for the opening day.

Connie Stano of Agawam was there with her niece Kate Tzoumas, a second-grader in Wilbraham. Stano said it has been a “brutal winter.” But that is not necessarily the reason the two of them were sure to be there for the opening of the bulb show.

“We couldn’t wait to get here,” said Stano. “Kate’s favorite color is pink.”