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by Phyllis Laslett, Adult Education Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Every Wednesday morning, I see volunteers carrying trays of freshly-cut flowers and other plant material into the GardenFest of Lights decoration workshop—signaling the first stage of the imaginative, hand-made holiday decorations that delight annual GardenFest visitors starting the weekend after Thanksgiving. botanical decorations from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

In most inside spaces, ornaments made from dried plant materials decorate trees, form table decorations, and drape fireplaces and chandeliers. Their creation is a year-round effort from planning which seeds to buy, to planting and caring for the plants, to harvesting and drying. And, much of the work happens when you’d expect it least — in the heat of summer — July & August.  Walking into the workshop, I’m like a kid again, waiting to see what our creative horticulture staff and volunteers will come up with this year!

A hydrangea being immersed in silica

A hydrangea being immersed in silica

There’s years of experience on tap for this project, from best plants for drying — and the best technique for each one.  Apparently, we had a disaster this year when an experimental method for keeping lotus leaves flat while drying resulted in a mildewed mess—oh well, sometimes you have to go with the flow, and start fresh. We’ll be working with the second crop of lotus leaves, and around their ‘personalities’. Plants are harvested all summer and carried to the basement workshop in the Education & Library Complex where GardenFest magic is crafted.  Some plants are dried in silica gel, which works great, preserves the shape of the plant part and a good bit of the color, and can be reused a number of times.  Even peonies get the spa treatment!  In addition to the gel, some plants are air dried, some are pressed.  In October, more fun starts as the staff puts their design ideas into action.  The result: remarkable, unique ornaments and decorations.

botanical decorations from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

If this sort of craftiness seems right up your alley, then you will want to join us on  July 17th as garden horticulturists Laura Sullian and Shannon Smith share their accumulated knowledge about creating the best dried botanical decorations ever! This brand new class starts with planning which plants to grow, harvesting techniques, and best preserving methods, so you can survey your own yard and garden and start working on your own decorations.  Plus, you’ll get a tour of the workshop where plant magic happens, and go home with a small starter project.  A perfect way to celebrate Christmas in July! botanical decorations at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Selecting and Drying Flowers and Plants for Botanical Decorations, Saturday, July 17, 9 – 11 am

The remarkable botanical decorations featured each December and January at GardenFest of Lights are made from plants mostly grown and preserved here. Garden Horticulturists Laura Henley and Shannon Smith discuss drying techniques and best choices of materials for these spectacular botanical ornaments. Some time is spent in the Garden and some in the workshop where materials are assembled and decorations are planned. Come away with a small starter project for your own garden jewels!

$40 / $30 members

1 session = 2 hrs. GES: HL, 2, elective

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