Seasonal Shows

For the last hundred years, Smith College traditions have included two seasonal shows in the Lyman Conservatory. Each spring is welcomed with the Spring Bulb Show beginning the first Saturday in March, and every autumn is celebrated with a Fall Chrysanthemum Show, which begins the first Saturday in November. Dates of future shows.

Fall Chrysanthemum Show

Botanic Garden staff and horticulture students begin preparing for the Chrysanthemum Show months ahead to ensure that everything is ready opening night. Here is a look at how we create some of our floral pyrotechnics!

The cascades are a striking feature of the Chrysanthemum Show. These hanging waterfalls of flowers line the greenhouse walls with brilliant color. Although specifically bred for this type of display, cascading mums do not naturally grow in these formations. Cascades require an eight-month training period during which they are pinned to wire frames. The buds are also pinched periodically to encourage branching and to increase the number of flower buds. Using similar methods, cascading mums can be trained to walls, fans, or pillars, or even to more complex shapes.

Also featured are extraordinary oversized blooms known as standards, growing atop plants as tall as seven feet. The flowers, in a variety of unexpected shapes and colors, have been coaxed to their unusual size by disbudding—removing all the side flower buds as the plants grow. This results in one very large flower per plant.

Horticulture students at Smith have been learning chrysanthemum hybridization techniques since the early 1900s, producing new hybrids bearing the names of their creators. These hybrids are exhibited at the following year’s show, and exhibition-goers vote for their favorite hybrid. Be sure to vote for the one you like the best!

Spring Bulb Show

A spectacular array of blossoming crocuses, hyacinths, narcissi, irises, lilies and tulips as well as non-hardy South African Bulbs provide an early glimpse of spring at Smith College’s Lyman Conservatory. This extravagant display dates back to the early 1900s when horticulture students learned the art of forcing plants into bloom out of season. The first shows were in what we now call the Show House, although that greenhouse now houses our collection of fragrant plants. 

Ordinarily blooming at different times, some 5,000 bulbs are coaxed into a simultaneous blooming. The process begins in October when Smith horticulture students pot them up and put them into cold storage. Starting in January, the bulbs are transferred to the greenhouses and, with careful timing and temperature control, are ready for their colorful debut in March.