Green Bay – It’s easy to miss the forest trees at this time of year at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.
At the annual WPS Garden of Lights display, amidst the dizzying excitement of 325,000 outdoor lights, visitors including the magical Icicle Forest will breeze right beside two indoor showstoppers maybe.
Each year, volunteers and staff, with artistic assistance from Mother Nature, decorate the Christmas tree entirely with treasures harvested from the property’s 47 acres of gardens and natural areas. No tinsel, no glass beads, no glittering ornaments, no bright stars above. Instead, decorate the branches with garlands made of dried marigolds, birch bark and pine cones. Miniature bouquets, bird nests, feathers, rose hips, poppy seed heads, fluffy grasses and hydrangeas as big as Santa’s beard.
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The trees are works of art, with colorful balls made from gomphrena flowers glued one by one to Styrofoam spheres, and details like dried milkweed seed pods that open and open to fill with tiny greenery and flowers. is a work of art that needs to be appreciated. If you look closely, a flock of owls made from pine cones and pretzel beans are looking back at you.
A showcase of the beauty of a garden long past the growing season.
The tallest and most magnificent trees welcome you at the Fisher Visitor Center. Here, dry grass, hydrangea, eucalyptus, and sea lavender toppers stand out about 12 feet above. The lower floor, where the children find Mrs. Claus on certain nights in the Garden of Light, has another floor filled with the silvery feather-like plumage of birds, citrus peels, and pampas grass.
Two additional trees have been installed in the garden area used for private functions. Visitors to the National Railway Museum’s Festival of Trees can find one there as well.
Trees of Nature is a holiday tradition at Green Bay Botanical Gardens that begins each year when the flowers begin to bloom in the summer. Under the guidance of her horticulturists Alyssa Giese and Hayden Stecker, a crew of five volunteers harvest the flowers throughout the season.
Straw flowers, marigolds, gomphrenas, statice, hydrangeas and globe amaranth are easiest to dry by hanging in bundles in a dry, dark place. Others, including zinnias and dahlias, should be stored face down in silica sand for a week to keep shape and color best. Some of the annual leaves, such as Dusty Miller’s frosty leaves, are preserved when the entire plant is pulled out of the ground in late fall.
Instead of being tossed into a compost pile, plants get a second life during the holiday season.
“If it grows, picks it up and puts it on the tree, it’s as easy as going out into the garden,” Guise said.
She has some tips for first-timers.
If you use cattails, be sure to spray them with hairspray. For the beautiful blush of hydrangea flowers, pluck them before they start to show brown. Allium dried flower heads can be easily spray painted to add a pop of color to a tree or winter container.Allium Schuberti, with its oversized fireworks-like flowers, is a wonderful tree his Become a topper.
Each fall, volunteers gather to make small bouquets and push them into the trees. When it’s time to decorate, we divide the work between seasonal staff and full-time staff, and complete all the trees in about four hours.
Many of our garlands, bouquets and ornaments are kept year after year, but there is always room for new ideas. This year they harvested the grape vines and made small wreaths decorated with other plant materials.
Native trees can be seen during WPS Garden of Lights nights and regular garden hours through December 30th. It is expected to be operational by mid-January.
Kendra Meinert is an entertainment and feature writer for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Contact her at 920-431-8347 or her firstname.lastname@example.org. follow her on her twitter @Kendra Meinert.