Mums, Plant Records, Christmas, and Orchids

The 12 weeks since I last blogged have been a complete whirlwind at Longwood.

In October, I helped to finish the Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum which turned out to be the largest in Longwood history — 1523 individual blooms on a single chrysanthemum plant!! It was a stretch (literally) this year to get it to such a large size. The hot summer stunted the stems, but somehow Yoko (our specialty mum grower) managed to coax out a few extra inches. In fact, the final size was actually a too big to fit through the greenhouse door for delivery, so the bottom of the metal frame had to be cinched in, kind of like a giant mum corset.


After the installation of the Thousand Bloom, I moved on to a work placement with Longwood’s Plant Records department. Throughout the month, I assisted with identification, taking inventory, and mapping of woody plants. I was also responsible for selecting the plants and photos to be featured on the Garden Highlights page on Longwood’s website.


An example of an identification I assisted with. Far left is the typical native Calycanthus floridus, the two on the right are C. chinensis. The sample second from the left was the unknown which I identified as C. floridus after some research into the species description and history of cultivation.


Then came the week of Thanksgiving; the Longwood whirlwind reached its crescendo with the installation of Christmas. In the course of four days, the entire Conservatory was transformed from an autumnal Chrysanthemum Festival into a magical Christmas display.

The remainder of my time at Longwood will be spent working with our orchid grower, Greg Griffiths. This is my first time working with orchids professionally, and already I have already learned so much, not least being how to pronounce some of the species names; I may have walked away from work today with a tongue cramp.

Part of my work with the orchids has been to assist with the propagation of Disa uniflora hybrids made here at Longwood. Disa is a unique genus which isn’t often found in cultivation due to the difficulty of replicating its preferred growing conditions, the edges of streams and waterfalls in South Africa.

Exactly one month until I arrive in Japan; I can’t wait!

– Bryan Kottke

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