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Outside, It's Drab
Just when you've grown thoroughly weary of winter, the Smith College Bulb Show in Northampton, Massachusetts, will rescue your spirits and delight your senses.
The calendar says spring is still officially weeks away. One look at the snow-covered New England landscape, and it's obvious our wait may actually be much longer. Yet, as it has for a century, spring erupts early in Northampton, Massachusetts, where the Smith College Spring Bulb Show runs March 4-19, 2017.
It's quite a scientific feat to force thousands of bulbs to bloom in unison weeks before their outdoor counterparts usually dare end their hibernation. Since the early 1900s, Smith students have potted bulbs in the fall, placed them in cold storage, then warmed them in greenhouses at exactly the right temperature and time to ensure their March debut. As you'll see from my 2010 Spring Bulb Show photos, the resulting tapestry of blooms is a work of pure artistry.
For a $5 suggested donation, you, too, can leave... winter behind and enjoy the lush shades and scents of spring. An After the Show Bulb Sale runs March 25-26.Continue to 2 of 18 below.
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Smith College's Lyman Conservatory is composed of a series of glasshouses that date to 1895, 1901, 1952 and 1981. A vast variety of plant life thrives inside this 12,000-square-foot greenhouse space year-round.Continue to 3 of 18 below.
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A Historic Botanic Garden
The Lyman Conservatory is the sparkling jewel of Smith College's Botanic Garden, which is always open free to the public. Botany was an innovative discipline when it was added to the Smith curriculum in 1875. The botanic garden first took shape in 1894.Continue to 4 of 18 below.
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Leave Winter Behind
Outside the Lyman Plant House, this sculpted bird in perpetual flight seems eager to take leave of New England's winter weather. Inside the Smith College greenhouses, Spring Bulb Show visitors have the opportunity to do just that.Continue to 5 of 18 below.
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Suddenly, It's Spring
Step inside the first of two crystal halls that house the Bulb Show at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and you'll be instantly teleported to springtime.Continue to 6 of 18 below.
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Each Year is Different
Although the Spring Bulb Show at Smith College is a tradition that dates to the early 1900s, each year's display of blossoming crocuses, hyacinths, narcissi, irises, lilies and tulips is a singular experience.Continue to 7 of 18 below.
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Overheard at the Bulb Show
This was my first time at the Smith College Bulb Show, and as I was snapping pictures, I was also scribbling down comments I overheard. "I don't think I've ever seen it this colorful," remarked one woman who'd evidently enjoyed the show's splendor before.Continue to 8 of 18 below.
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For some visitors, the Spring Bulb Show is an opportunity to discover new blooming specimens they might incorporate into their own home landscaping and decorating. Each clay pot has an unobtrusive label identifying the flower it contains.Continue to 9 of 18 below.
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Paradise for Photographers
March is NOT New England's most photogenic month, so the Smith College Bulb Show is a paradise for photographers who've been cooped up all winter. Teens with camera phones and serious shooters with SLRs were all out to capture this breathtaking scene.Continue to 10 of 18 below.
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Take a Picture with Your Nose
I heard one mother counsel her daughter: "Take a picture with your eyes... take a picture with your nose." What sage advice! The 2010 Bulb Show debut coincided with a burst of mild weather, but fragrant memories are sure to delight on chilly days ahead.Continue to 11 of 18 below.
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"So saturated" was another phrase I overheard, as one of the thousands of flower lovers who annually descend upon the Lyman Conservatory for the Bulb Show tried to describe the beauty of the floral array. These yellow tulips were certainly saturated.Continue to 12 of 18 below.
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"Absolutely gorgeous," gushed another Bulb Show attendee. I agree! Since the spring bulb plants featured don't usually bloom in unison, the vivid quilt of flowers is a spring fantasy made even more remarkable by its timing in early March.Continue to 13 of 18 below.
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How Many Bulbs?
How many bulbs do Smith College students plant in the fall to ensure this annual spring rite unfurls on cue? The answer is: about 5,000.Continue to 14 of 18 below.
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Other Spring Bloomers
According to the 2010 Spring Bulb Show brochure: "Although we call it the Bulb Show, we also sneak in a few other spring bloomers, which we force into bloom a bit early." That explains the purple Cineraria seen surrounded by hyacinths in this photo.Continue to 15 of 18 below.
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A Wild Mix
Although the dazzling mix of blooming beauties that stretch toward the Lyman Conservatory's glass ceiling seems haphazardly arranged, students and faculty actually give careful thought to the blend of hues and the show's overall theme and visual impact.Continue to 16 of 18 below.
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Tulips Steal the Show
If you ask me, though, it's the tulips that really steal the show. As I wandered through the two greenhouses filled with the scent and sights of spring, it was the variegated colors and the curvaceous petals of the tulips that repeatedly drew my lens.Continue to 17 of 18 below.
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An Antidote for Stress
My favorite comment overheard at the Smith College Bulb Show: "I've got to remember this look when I'm stressed out." So, if for no other reason, see this spring display so that you can bank a bit of bliss to draw upon whenever you have a tough day.Continue to 18 of 18 below.
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Bring a Touch of Spring Home
Thousands file through the Spring Bulb Show at Smith College each March, and many return the weekend following the show's end for the After the Show Bulb Sale: a chance to own a potted piece of this delightful spring rainbow.