Phipps’ annual fall flower takes ‘Japanese Inspirations’
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ fall flower show is like the season itself — a brief but welcome respite before the return of a long and cold winter in Pittsburgh.
“Japanese Inspirations” is the theme of this year’s fall show, which celebrates not only the nearly 2,900 chrysanthemums that dominate the displays in the Oakland glass house, but also the colorful festivals and the role of nature in the culture of Japan.
Mums have been the star of seasonal flower shows at Phipps since 1894, making the 125th edition the longest running fall show in the nation, according to conservatory officials.
Laura Schoch, plant recorder and display horticulturist at Phipps, designed the show that runs for just three weeks, from Oct. 19 to Nov. 10.
The Japanese influence starts in the Welcome Center, where 24 large origami peace cranes are among the 1,000 cranes made by members of the Origami Society of Pittsburgh, the Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania and Phipps volunteers for the display.
Katsuko Shellhammer of Vandergrift, education outreach coordinator for the Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania based in Monroeville, said “Japanese Inspirations” at Phipps is an extension of the society’s outreach program to share celebration of various festivities practiced in Japan.
“It is a great opportunity to bring the atmosphere of festivities in creative floral designs done by very talented people at Phipps,” Shellhammer said. “We are excited to have the opportunity to bring Japanese culture to the public in this region. We hope the combination of Japanese festival props and the vivid floral colors will be quite a show to see.”
Palm Court moon-viewing festival
This room spotlights a Japanese tsukimi (moon-viewing) festival, when families gather to admire the full moon and give thanks for a bountiful harvest.
Accenting groupings of mums, Japanese forest grass, purple fountain grass and other plants in vibrant shades of orange and purple, are calligraphy panels hand-painted by Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania member Suzuka Omizo-Tobe. The panels illustrate kanji, the logographic or symbolic Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system. The symbols written in kanji offer messages of peace, autumn, full moon and harvest.
Children’s Day, or Kodomo no Hi, is the focus of the Sunken Garden, where carp-shaped streamers and wind socks dance in the breeze surrounded by 10 varieties of spray, disbud and cascade mums and other plants native to Japan, eastern Mexico and Brazil.
East Room’s colorful Star Festival
One of Japan’s most colorful festivals is depicted in the East Room, where brightly colored paper lanterns hang from the ceiling. Visitors are invited to participate in a Japanese custom of writing their hopes and wishes on colorful paper strips to hang on bamboo plants, where they are thought to be carried to the heavens.
Other rooms throughout the conservatory illustrate a “dry landscape” garden that invites contemplation, the 1,000 folded paper origami cranes created by the two participating Japanese groups to fulfill their wishes for serenity and appreciation of nature’s gifts, and a festival held in Tokyo to celebrate a mythical dragon’s arrival.
‘All Aboard’ in the South Conservatory
Returning as part of the fall flower show is Phipps’ popular garden railroad, designed by Jordyn Melino, associate director of exhibits, with its new theme of “Farms, Food and Family.”
Melino said the scenes depict different types of gardens — container, rooftop and community — showing various ways of growing food.
Also included are innovative farming techniques such as hillside farming, goatscaping and renewable energy farms with solar panels and moving miniature wind turbines. Interactive push-button stations invite visitors to activate train whistles and animal sounds.
Unlike the fall flower show, the Garden Railroad will remain open at Phipps until next spring.
A special family-friendly Halloween event will take place during the fall show, from 4- 8 p.m. on Oct. 25. Guests can come in costume and participate in face painting, Halloween games and “creepy plant” potting, in addition to viewing the Garden Railroad and flower show. The special activities and healthy snacks are included on that day only with regular admission.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.