My first month as Interchange Fellow at Longwood sees me in the Production department. This was a great place to start and get an insight of what goes on behind the scenes. The two big displays that are coming up are the Chrysanthemum Festival and Christmas, so there was a lot of handling of ‘mums’ and poinsettias.
The conditions for growing here are very controlled, from the meticulous analysing of soils to providing growing lights and blackout facilities for plants like Poinsettias, so that they flower in time for their spectacular Christmas Display. They grow a lot of tropical plants indoors and outdoors, taking advantage of that hot and humid window in summer. With a taste for the rare and unusual, many are not commercially available or else have been acquired on Longwood’s own plant-hunting expeditions.
I have been busy with staking, tying, pinching and taking off the excessive buds and shoots from chrysanthemums and poinsettias. These are trained in all forms, shapes and sizes, and I was able to give grafting several different types of chrysanthemums flowers onto one plant a go just to see how tricky it is. Another radical thing that I learned was that begonias can change midway from a flower to a leaf if you control the lighting.
With the pressure and demand of getting plants to perform at the desired times, this is the closest I have come to methods that are more akin to commercial growing. It has also given me more of a scientific insight into plants and horticultural methods.
Just to provide some context, Longwood is just shy of 1,077 acres in total and has approximately 1.4 million visitors a year. This includes 4.5 acres of intensive conservatory display houses, an 86-acre meadow and a $95 million restoration of the main fountain garden, which will be open during my time here in 2017.
I have been kept busy - I visited the Dahlia Flower Show at Longwood - which was one of the most beautiful and best that I have ever seen; helped to judge houseplants at a local community fair that included displays of agricultural produce, mushrooms (Kennett Square where Longwood is set, is the mushroom capital of the world) and arts and crafts; and visited Hank’s, the best planted diner I have ever encountered.
For more pictures and details of my time here you can read my personal blog.