Ancient Art Form Lives on at Longwood Gardens

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Ancient Art Form Lives on at Longwood Gardens

September 9, 2011
08:02am

Imagine a single chrysanthemum plant with 1,000 or more perfect, uniform blooms that measures nearly 12 feet wide and takes almost two years to grow.  Could an ordinary chrysanthemum really become so extraordinary? It can at Longwood Gardens, one of the world’s finest display gardens, renowned for growing and showcasing ordinary plants in extraordinary ways.

Located in the heart of Pennsylvania’s historic Brandywine Valley, Longwood’s out-of-this-world horticultural displays change with each season. Perhaps no season is more awe-inspiring than the Chrysanthemum Festival, which transforms the Gardens’ four-acre conservatory into a colorful showcase of blooming mums, including the display’s masterpiece: The Thousand Bloom. 

The Thousand Bloom derives its name from the ambitious goal of cultivating a single chrysanthemum plant to produce as many perfectly placed blooms as possible. This ancient technique, known in Japan as Ozukuri, originated more than 200 years ago in Asia and is the most exacting and challenging of all Chrysanthemum training styles.

“A Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum is one of the biggest wonders in the world of flowers,” said Longwood Gardens Director Paul Redman. “Each year the challenge to grow one of the world’s largest mums is one of the most intensive horticultural efforts we engage in here at Longwood.”

The rigorous, 18-month growing technique involves meticulous watering, pinching and tying of the chrysanthemum to a customized wire frame to train the plant to grow into the desired form. The blooms are painstakingly arranged in a dome shape, with the goal of achieving as many uniform blooms as possible.

Only a few growers in the entire world today are skilled in the techniques of training a Thousand Bloom. Longwood Gardens’ team of growers is led by Yoko Arakawa, who has trained with master chrysanthemum growers in Japan and frequently travels there to advance her understanding of this rare art form. 

Longwood has been growing a Thousand Bloom since 1994. The first few years yielded just a few hundred blooms on the plant, but last year, a U.S. record-breaking 991 blooms was achieved and this year the chrysanthemum is on track to produce more than 1,000 blooms. 

The Thousand Bloom will be on display at Longwood Gardens’ annual Chrysanthemum Festival, which runs October 29 through November 20. The innovative display is celebrating its 30th year and features 20,000 blooming chrysanthemums grown in extraordinary ways throughout Longwood’s 4-acre conservatory. See towering arches, shields, spheres and more unusual forms fashioned from mums. In all, more than 34 million pinches, 3 miles of wire, and more than 10,000 twist ties will be used to create the Festival’s one-of-a-kind display. 

Extraordinary, indeed. 

To see the Longwood team of growers work to create these beautiful chrysanthemum-creations CLICK HERE