Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights Decorations & Inspirations
Ask Justin Brown when he and his team began work on this year’s light show and he replies, “We never stopped.” Brown is Operations Manager and External Team Leader for Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights, responsible for setting out the lights that help turn Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden into a wonderland of Living Color for this year’s show. The perpetual preparations take place in a large room in the basement of the Kelly Education Center — GardenFest ground zero — the staging area where staff and volunteers work year-round to create an experience that we hope you’ll find both enlightening and entertaining.
This year, Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights celebrates color. It’s an exploration of the many ways that color impacts nature, influences behavior and informs our experience of the world around us. Outdoors, fountains bubble with luminous orbs, radiant animals prance and prowl and LED spotlights cast rainbows into the night. Perennial favorites like the peacock and our beloved bottle flowers return. And, because we look for new ways to delight you each year, there are cubes of color on the Conservatory lawn, colorful alligator-sized chameleons, glittering flowers in the Cochrane Rose Garden and a halo of light hovering around the Children’s Garden CWDKids Treehouse.
Communicating with Color
Color is nature’s vocabulary — a language understood across species. Color indicates when food is nutritious and ready to eat (think red strawberries or ripe tomatoes.) Animals dress in disguises that blend into their environment (ducklings and green tree frogs are camouflaged by color.) Color warns predators away from poisonous prey (dart frogs make deadly dinner choices.) And, when wildlife responds to certain color queues, matchmaking is easy (peacocks and cardinals attract partners with their bright plumage.) When you visit, you’ll learn more about color than you ever knew was possible! The Kelly Education Center hallway is lined with the most interesting color facts we could find!
For GardenFest, the Robins Visitors Center, the Conservatory and the Kelly Education Center interiors are decorated with interpretations of the role that color plays in our lives. Shannon Smith, GardenFest Coordinator and Senior Horticulturist, worked with the Garden’s horticulture staff and more than 200 volunteers to create hands-on activities, themed displays, playful symbolism and educational signage to help you experience this world of Living Color.
An Insider’s Look at GardenFest
Your journey through the world of Living Color begins, as all color does, with sunlight: a 5-foot paper sun made of overlapping layers of red, yellow and orange fans casts its imaginary glow over the Visitors Center atrium. Dean Dietrich, Central Garden Horticulturalist, stitched 25-30 gleaming paper fans onto a foam base with fishing line. Look closely and you’ll see gimp plastic lacing “sunbeams” radiating from either side. “Color is simply light, either refracted or reflected back to us,” explains Smith. “So it made sense to begin with the sun.” And because sunlight also makes flowers grow, the atrium is overflowing with bright colorful blooms, happily soaking up the symbolic sunshine.
There’s more! See if you can find a halo of ribbon hovering over the holiday tree on the porch outside of Bloemendaal House. Or, spot rays of fiber sunlight radiating from above in the Lora Robins Library. On our next Member Night, Monday, January 9, 2017, look for tiny globe terrariums strung along a Bloemendaal House mantelpiece.
The talented hands that design displays and tend beds during the growing season at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden find a new medium for our message in the magic and splendor that is GardenFest. As you wander through the constellation of color that we’ve created, take a moment to appreciate what it means, and the passion that went into making it.
If you’re inspired to try your hand at some colorful creations of your own, below you’ll find PDFs of the original templates we made. Whether you’re an experienced crafter or an eager beginner, all you need are some basic supplies and a little imagination!