Bulb Show Opening Hints at Spring

Olivia Goodman '14New Editor

On March 1 the annual Spring Bulb Show opened with a lecture by Botanic Garden Director Michael Marcotrigiano, titled “New Trees for the Landscape: From Plant Exploration to Genetic Manipulation.” In conjunction with the bulb show opening, Janan Scott ’13 and Liliana Farrell ’13, student interns at the Poetry Center, put together a poetry exhibition entitled “From Petals to Paper: Poetic Inspiration from Flowers.”

Previous flower show lectures have been diverse and included topics such as plant exploration in Myanmar, orchid propagation and the history of tulip domestication. Marcotrigiano’s lecture summarized the sabbatical trip he recently took. He discussed how new trees come from more sources than one might think, including academic research, federal research, arboretums, botanic gardens, plant exploration and simple serendipity.

Despite being known as one of the most notable events that brings the public to Smith campus, Marcotrigiano notes “no one is sure about the early ages of the bulb show because it started over a hundred years ago. It is likely that learning to force bulbs into bloom was a part of student horticulture learning. The end result – pretty flowers – became popular, so the publicity increased.”

Each year the bulb show has a new twist or theme – past examples include a Turkish theme – with the goal of reminding the public that while tulips were domesticated in Holland, they actually originate from Turkey, and a Dutch windmill theme. This year’s theme is “Reflections.” While the blooms vary from year to year, some of the species displayed annually are typically familiar spring flowers such as tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and crocuses. However, each year, breeders come out with new forms and colors, providing the organizers of the show countless ways to rearrange flowers to achieve the desired effect that goes with the show’s theme.

Marcotrigiano commended the decision to organize the bulb show in conjunction with the contemporary poetry exhibit.

“Exhibitions are a good companion to a flower show because they are an opportunity to teach people new things in an enjoyable setting. Plants have influenced art, science and literature. The Poetry Center was the perfect place to recruit students to come up with great poems inspired by flowering bulbs. It seemed natural, but had never been done before,” he said.

“Ellen Watson, the directory of the Poetry Center, asked if Janan and I were interested in selecting poems about the flowering bulbs to display at the bulb show. We jumped at the chance to do a creative project with the Botanical Garden at Smith,” said Farrell.

“Some of the poems we selected for display were by poets that we know and love, like Li-Young Lee and Jean Valentine. Others I found by searching the Poetry Foundation website for finding lesser-known contemporary poets,” Farrell continued. “The impact of the poetry on view at the bulb show is to let visitors know that these flowering bulbs are more than gorgeous pieces of nature – they’re also an inspiration to writers and artists.”

Scott echoed Farrell’s sentiment. “I think the poetry on view speaks to a centuries-old awe that human beings have found in nature, and it adds gravitas to the bulb show,” she said. “As we admire and absorb the beauty of the bulb show, we are also reminded of history that came before us, such as the many who have admired nature, so much so that they wrote poems about it al!”

The Spring Bulb Show is open from 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. daily and runs until March 17. The supplementary exhibition “From Petals to Paper” is open from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. daily.