By LINDA M. LINONIS
For Fellows Riverside Gardens’ Winter Celebration, staff members and more than 100 volunteers made and decorated 75 wreaths, hung more than 500 snowflakes and created a snow-palace courtyard for the Snow Queen to greet children.
A flurry of activity has illuminated garden paths with strings and strings of twinkling white and colored lights, luminaria and torches.
The work created the Snow Garden, which opens today.
Keith Kaiser, horticultural director, said this is the 12th year for the Winter Celebration, which began a year after the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center opened in December 2000. The reasons behind the event are close to Kaiser’s heart — showcasing floral displays, promoting horticulture and offering a free, family-friendly activity.
Last year, more than 3,000 visited Fellows during three special winter nights; many more strolled the gardens throughout the seasonal celebration.
Kaiser said decorating the center and gardens in holiday finery is a form of thanks for the “gift of a garden” from Elizabeth Rudge Fellows (1861-1958). She donated the land and funds to build and maintain the free public garden.
When visitors enter the Davis Center, they’ll be delighted by the twinkling white lights, hundreds of suspended snowflakes and an array of live plants. Whether they realize it or not, they’ll also be getting an informal education about the holiday plants and learning about 50 nonprofit organizations that have decorated live Frasier fir trees.
Visitors will be enthralled by the poinsettias in an array of colors and an 8-foot tree made of the plants, along with amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus.
Kaiser said the Winter Celebration highlights the fact that there’s always something of interest in the garden. “There are evergreen plants and deciduous trees with interesting bark and branches,” he said. Spotlights in various colors highlight the plants.
Fir tree branches dotted with lights and decorations fill large urns positioned along walkways. The gazebo also is decked out in holiday finery. St. Fiacre, patron of gardeners, is wearing a hat and scarf for the season.
Children may visit the snow-palace courtyard, where they can leave their Christmas wishes on a special tree for the Snow Queen to pass on to Santa Claus. Barb Root, a local storyteller, plays the part of the Snow Queen during Winter Night events from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 9, 16 and 23.
Carol Lunger, a retired landscape supervisor at Mill Creek MetroParks, also has volunteered for years. “It’s fun to see the children’s reaction,” she said about the all-volunteer area. Children may interact with the Snow Queen and also make Christmas ornaments.
“We try to use about 90 percent of natural materials,” she said. Real plant parts and materials such as teasel, pine cones, tree branches, allium seed pods, okra and dill seed heads were painted white, blue and silver and sprinkled with glitter to create a sparkling setting for the Snow Queen and her “snow lady” court.
Bridget Beck, volunteer coordinator at Fellows, said planning for such special events takes months. Volunteers Deby Clark and Doug Cornwell worked with staff member Lynn Zocolo on the “vision for the garden.”
“It’s a huge job,” Beck said, noting that all of the 500-plus snowflakes suspended from the ceiling had to be hand-tied by volunteers.
Cornwell, who has volunteered the last few years, said he enjoys sharing his design talent and seeing an idea take shape.
A peek in the library reveals 112 handmade knitted and crocheted snowflakes decorating 28 display cases. “Each one is unique. Volunteers have worked for months,” Beck said. The sewing group meets Friday at the center and makes blankets, scarves and hats for those in need.
The auditorium plays host to the live trees decorated by Nonprofits. Second Harvest Food Bank tree is decorated with food cans and cartons, Green Team with recycled materials and Audubon Society with bird-related items.