Annual Greenhouse Event Lets Visitors See Plants in a Different Light

March 16, 2016
Photo from the 2016 Greenhouse Light Show
David Sommers

The Light Show, an annual event in the Margaret C. Ferguson Greenhouses, allows visitors to see plants in a completely different light. Held in the evening, spotlights and theatrical lighting are used to highlight plants' features.

"The greenhouses are lush and sometimes overwhelming," said Gail Kahn, assistant director of the botanic gardens. "When only a few plants are lighted and the rest fade into the darkness, your attention is focused on their highlighted characteristics. Between the scents of the narcissus in the Seasonal Display House, the chorus of crickets in the Tropic House and the gurgling water in the Hydrophyte House, it becomes a multi-sensory experience."

This year's show, with a focus on plant form, was spread over two evenings: the student event on Tuesday, March 8, included the popular Smoothie Night in the Greenhouse Visitor Center; then students, faculty, staff, local alums and the public were invited to attend on Wednesday, March 9. Some 350 people attended over the two nights.

Olivia Hix '19 said she liked the overall atmosphere of the night. "It was very relaxing and all the plants looked amazing with the different colored lights," she said. Maya Ludtke '19 called the show wonderful and said, “It was great to see such a big turnout. I overheard people saying that they had never been to the greenhouse before and would definitely come again."

Bridget O'Connor Garsh '04 said, "I couldn't think of a better way to welcome in spring than wandering through the greenhouses while plants' shadows danced on the wall, students shared stories of the Durant camellia, and alumnae conversations filled each room."

One of the goals of the Light Show, according to Kristina Niovi Jones, Director of the Wellesley College Botanic Gardens and adjunct assistant professor of biological sciences, is to invite students to the greenhouse and remind them that an amazing collection of plants from around the world is here for them.

"I've heard students wonder whether they are allowed into the collections greenhouses," Jones said. "They are more than allowed, they are encouraged to visit anytime the greenhouses are open, for as long as they'd like to stay. There is so much to see and experience, even without the special lighting."

The Margaret C. Ferguson Greenhouses house the most diverse collection of plants under glass in the greater Boston area. The sixteen interconnected greenhouses, comprising 7,200 square feet, are open daily during the school year from 8am to 4pm.