Longwood Gardens hosts Orchid Extravaganza
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
Rebecca Nurse is not a gardener and said she doesn’t even own any plants. Yet, at least twice a month she comes to Longwood Gardens to experience nature—carefully sculpted, “prettier nature.”
Nurse, of Lancaster, Pa., said she thinks it is emotionally and psychologically healthy to be around flowers and greenery every now and then. For her, Longwood Gardens is a place where she finds peace and relaxation.
“You don’t notice how dead everything is outside until you come in here,” Nurse said. “It looks like it’s summer in here.”
Although a member at Longwood Gardens, located in Kennett Square, Pa., Nurse said she came on Saturday to do more than just admire the flora and snap a pretty picture—she came to learn.
Longwood Gardens hosted a Beyond the Garden Gates Day on Saturday, opening up rooms in the conservatory not typically available to the public, and taught visitors about the work that goes into the Orchid Extravaganza exhibition currently on display.
Nurse said she was able to enter the potting shed where gardeners plan and work on displays, the library where gardeners research plants, the orchid house and the growing house, which holds the orchids for the winter display.
“[Orchid Extravaganza is] beautiful and amazing, but the more you learn about how much work went into it, you appreciate it more,” she said.
Kelly Disabatino, part-time gardener at Longwood Gardens and a university alumna, demonstrated to on-lookers how to make an orb entirely out of purple orchids. She explained the process of stacking the potted orchids into the metal basket as visitors asked questions about the flower and how the orb is watered and maintained once completed.
Disabatino said Beyond the Garden Gates Day is entirely for the guests of Longwood Gardens, so that they might get answers to questions and gain inspiration for their own gardens.
“We’re giving the public information they can take home so that they can create the same things in their own home,” Disabatino said.
Joyce Rondinella, Longwood Gardens senior gardener, spoke about the work that goes into the displays on a larger scale, explaining to visitors the Orchid Extravaganza planning process from beginning to end.
She said in addition to the paid gardeners, designers and project leaders, Longwood Gardens heavily depends on volunteers and students in the garden school for help with Orchid Extravaganza. Others involved in the process are electricians, painters, plumbers and metal shop workers, she said.
“It takes a village to get this place looking like it does to say the least,” Rondinella said.
Rondinella said as senior gardener she spearheads the entire project. She said she travels around the world, networks with growers at local orchid societies, attends the World Orchid Conference and visits other gardens to gain inspiration and see how they run their gardens.
Another aspect Rondinella manages is working with the display designer to plan what will go into the garden beds. Then, she said she visits the wholesale grower in order to choose each type, color and number of orchids she needs for the display.
Longwood Gardens does not have the space to grow and house all the orchids needed for Orchid Extravaganza, so she said she had to buy over 5,000 orchids from other growers for the display.
According to Rondinella, transporting and taking care of that many orchids can be tricky, especially in the winter. She said orchids can freeze on the way, among other things that can go wrong.
“It’s a little nerve-racking but, hey, it all worked,” Rondinella said. “They’re all blooming.”