Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg

Last Friday, a group of staff from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden traveled to Colonial Willamsburg to see the Christmas decorations.  At Colonial Williamsburg, they try to only decorate in the styles they would have used in the 18th-century.  On the historic Duke of Gloucester street, wreaths and swags, adorned with dried and fresh botanical material, decorated the homes and businesses.  A large team of staff members works to create these pieces, which number over 100. 
Many of the South facing buidings are decorated with dried materials.  Thiis one has wheat, orange slices, pomegranates, and straw flower.

Pine swag and wreath decorated with lotus pods, pine cones, okra pods, oranges, artichoke, straw flower
At this music shop, flutes, drum sticks, and folded fans made of sheet music accompany dried pomegranates and yarrow.
Wheat, lotus pods, artichoke, okra pods, and chinese lantern plant.
I was surprised to learn that some of the homes on this street were actually private residences, and that the homeowners get in on the fun to do their own decorations; all in the appropriate styles of course!  All of the decorations are judged and 12 blue ribbons are awarded- 6 for professionals, and 6 for amateurs. 
This homeowner depicted "The Cow Jumped Over the Moon" with cookies.
Pine cones, pomegranate, lotus pods, straw flowers, gomphrena, orange slices. 
This homeowner likes horses and has fresh apples hanging in stirrups.
Dried wheat, fresh apples, magnolia leaves, and boxwood in a horse's bridle.
At one of the taverns, clam shells and pint mugs decorated a wreath with hops and wheat.

The weaver's shop featured fabrics dyed with plant pigments.

Fresh oranges, money plant, yarrow, pine cones, and pomegranates.
The Horticulture staff got some wonderful ideas to use next year at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and we had a great day enjoying the historic town with our colleagues.
Being plant geeks, we couldn't help but notice this impressive oak.  After much debate about its ID, a Colonial Williamsburg staff member, told us it was a cross between Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) and Overcup Oak (Quercus lyrata).

Vegetable Garden with bee skeps

Bell jars in the vegetable garden.
They are pretty harsh with their punishments when you misbehave in Colonial Williamsburg.  Luckily, Karen and I made it out alive!

Beth Monroe, Director of PR and Marketing, also wrote a blog post about this trip on the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Blog

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History

Wall of mounted butterfly specimens from around the world.
Although the weather is getting chilly in Richmond, VA, I want to highlight a recent trip to a warmer place.  A couple of months ago, I was down in Florida to watch the UF vs. South Carolina game (Go Gators!).  While I was there, I visited the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History.  I had heard about the exhibition because their director, Jaret Daniels, came to visit this summer as a consultant for our 6-month Butterflies LIVE! exhibition at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  Since I was traveling to Gainesville anyway, I couldn't help but take the time to see the Butterfly Rainforest in person and get some ideas for our butterfly show next summer.

The butterfly rainforest is a 6,400-square-foot screened exhibit.  Since it is exposed to typical Florida weather conditions it exhibits a more natural environment for the butterflies and sub tropical plants.  They typically have over 1,000 butterflies on display and up to 60-80 butterfly and moth species at one time.  They also have a collection of small birds.  They had great signage that explained things about butterfly lifecycles, habitat, and identification.  There were also docents present at all times to answer guest questions.
Full sheet color photos helped visitors identify the butterflies present in the exhibition.
One of my favorite parts was the area where they hung chrysalides to let the butterflies emerge. It was in a glass case that the public could view.  It is amazing that the chrysalides can be as beautiful and intricate as the butterflies themselves.
The emergence room was visible to visitors.
Chrysalides were labeled with a name and photo of the butterfly that they would become.

I was toured around by Jaret Daniels and gathered great idea to improve our exhibition next year.  I would definitely recommend visiting the Butterfly Rainforest if you are in town for a football game or just passing through Gainesville!
The museum houses thousands of pinned arthropods in addition to the live butterflies.
They have a very diverse collection of wild-collected pinned butterfly specimens.
I was surprised to meet "Albert" in the museum as well.  The University of Florida used to have live Gators as mascots.  This scull was from one of the last live mascots who died in Lake Alice in 1974.

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