Arboretum prepares winter flower show

Amaryllises will embellish the visitor center this year, instead of poinsettias.

Yelena Kibasova

After Thanksgiving celebrations, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum will welcome guests at its new Oswald Visitor Center with a vast display of amaryllises and holiday decorations.

“We called (our holiday events) “Making Spirits Bright.’ Not to sound too cheesy, but that’s what happens when you come in. You’ve got the beautiful sights, the smells of the evergreens; it just makes you feel good,” said Jessica Kohen, public relations specialist at the Arboretum.

This is the first year the Arboretum is having the Amaryllis Extravaganza plant display.

“This whole thing is the beginning of a winterlong series of exhibits,” said Peter Olin, director of the Arboretum.

The McQuinn Great Hall in the center will be decked out with more than 100 South African and South American amaryllises of different varieties.

“I don’t think anyone has done amaryllis as a show, so we decided to do that as a pre-Christmas (event),” Olin said. “There’s a lot of different hybrids now, so we decided to show these. It’s sort of an alternative to poinsettias.”

The event also gives the public a reason to visit the Arboretum.

“We wanted to do plant-based displays in the winter. I think the concept that the arboretum is a destination spot in the spring, summer and fall is kind of well-established, but we wanted to really let people know that they can come out here in the winter too,” Kohen said.

The display was set up by a team of gardeners.

Jeweleen Engstrom, an Arboretum gardener, participated in the setup.

“The whole entire outside is decorated in the holiday decorations and greens and hanging containers with greens… there’s lots of birdfeeders and lovely things outside,” Engstrom said. “As you come inside the visitor center the whole thing is decorated throughout. All the public spaces have decorations.”

Using amaryllises, however, has presented some challenges, Olin said. Unlike the poinsettias, amaryllises are a lot more unpredictable in the way they bloom.

According to Olin, the flower originated in South America and South Africa, and was originally named amaryllis. Though it has gone through several name changes ” such as hippeastrum and lilio-narcissus ” since the 1690s, it has stubbornly kept the amaryllis name.

The amaryllis tables in the visitor’s center will feature varieties such as Honeymoon, Blushing Bride, Desert Dawn and Wedding Dance. At least 20 varieties will be displayed at the Extravaganza, Olin said.

The flowers will be displayed for guests to see in the visitor center along with evergreen trees and the traditional poinsettias.

The Amaryllis Extravaganza begins Friday and ends Dec. 24.

Visitors will have the chance to buy their own amaryllis during the Auxiliary Holiday Sale on Dec. 3 and 4, Olin said. This will be a big sale of natural bouquets and Christmas tree decorations, as well as bulbs.

The Arboretum plans to have a bonsai show in January followed by an orchid show in February.