Annual bulb show returns

For the Gazette
Published: 2/24/2017 11:06:49 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Spring is in the air at Smith College.

From March 4 through 19, the Botanic Garden of Smith College invites the public to step out of the chilly mid-March air and into the Lyman Conservatory, where more than 6,000 blooming bulbs await.

Crocuses, hyacinths, narcissi, irises, lilies and tulips are just some of the flowers that will occupy the conservatory during the annual Spring Bulb Show.

The tradition of the annual bulb show began in the early 1900s.

Madelaine Zadik, manager of education and outreach at the Botanic Garden, said that every year, around 20,000 people attend the show.

“Everybody comes,” Zadik said. “Young people with their kids, seniors from retirement communities, students... Who doesn’t love flowers?” As for why the show gets so much attention? “Everybody is desperate for spring,” Zadik said.

To kick off the show, Joan Edwards, chair of the biology department at Williams College, will give a lecture on “Botanical Explosions: The Evolutionary Impact of Ultra-fast Plants.” Ultra-fast plants, Zadik explained, are plants that use fast movements in a variety of ways, such as shooting out seeds.

The theme for this year’s show is “Fields of Flowers.” It was inspired by Irish Artist Mima Nixon’s watercolor paintings in the book “Dutch Bulbs and Gardens,” published in 1909.

Rob Nicholson, conservatory manager, has had “Dutch Bulbs and Gardens” on his shelf for decades. To incorporate the theme, bulbs will be strategically placed around Nixon’s illustrations to bring out the colors in the paintings.

“I’m always looking for a new theme or angle to work into growing bulbs,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson has been working with conservatory staff and Smith students to plan and prepare for the Bulb Show for months. This year has been challenging due to the warm weather, Nicholson explained, which caused the flowers to grow earlier than usual.

“It could very well be a short show this year,” said Nicholson, due to the flowers growing earlier than planned.

“It’s getting harder and harder to keep it to the traditional schedule and the traditional growing schedule.”

While the flowers are in full bloom, the show will be open to the public Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, it is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Members-only hours are from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. The suggested donation is $5.

For community members looking to bring a little spring home with them, the bulbs will be on sale the weekend following the show. The public may buy bulbs on March 25 from Noon to 3 p.m. and March 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Members can also purchase the bulbs on March 26 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.


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