Coming Soon: ‘Fields of Flowers’ at the Smith College Bulb Show

For those people who just can’t wait for Spring to come, there will be a sneak peek from March 3 to 18 at the Botanical Garden of Smith College, 16 College Lane, Northampton. Fields of Flowers: The Annual Spring Bulb Show will be open to all.

The Smith College Botanical Gardens gearing up for the Spring Bulb Show. Sarah Heinonen photo

Right now, the greenhouses are full of leafy plants, but in just a couple weeks’ time, there will be an explosion of color and fragrant scents.

Tim Johnson, the Botanical Garden Director, will give a lecture on the Stories of Seeds on Friday, March 2, at 7:30 p.m. to kick off the Bulb Show. The lecture will discuss the journey of flowering plants through time and how seed saving has changed human history. Johnson will also talk about the preservation of biodiversity and cultural identities through seed banks. There will be a reception after the lecture.

Greenhouse technician Dan Babineau is taking the reins on this year’s show, his 4th at the Botanical Garden. “It’s a tradition,” he said of the Bulb Show, which began in the early 1900s. The Botanical Garden will see between 15,000 and 25,000 people over the stretch of three weeks.

“I just hope it brightens everyone’s day,” said Babineau. “New England can have an effect on people, with all the snow,” he added.

The Smith College Botanical Gardens gearing up for the Spring Bulb Show. Sarah Heinonen photo

The Bulb Show will feature over 10,000 bulbs, including almost 5,000 tulips. Aside from tulips, variations of narcissus and hyacinth will also be featured. Some of the bulbs that will be on display sprout and grow naturally on their own. Others take a little more coaxing.

“We have bulbs that have to be pre-chilled,” said Babineau. Pre-chilling bulbs means that they are kept between 35-40 degrees and out of the light for around 12 weeks to simulate being underground. They are then slowly brought up to a warmer temperature and given light to prompt them to bloom.

When the show begins, the Botanical Garden will live stream it, allowing people to view the blooming even if unable to make it in person. Babineau said that the hope is that people will come away from the Bulb Show with more appreciation of beauty, education, and conservation.

“I want people to see the importance of the plant kingdom,” said Babineau.

The Smith College Botanical Gardens gearing up for the Spring Bulb Show. Sarah Heinonen photo

Author: Sarah Heinonen

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