History of the Annual Spring Flower Show

Greenhouse Archives

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts…

—Shakespeare, Hamlet

James Talcott (1835-1916), a New York City dry goods commission merchant and millionaire, had a deep commitment to learning and philanthropy. Over his lifetime,  Talcott set aside approximately one tenth of his profits for religious and charitable purposes, building a library in Northfield, Massachusetts, and West Hartford, Connecticut, the Cremorne Mission and Home for Intemperate Men, a dormitory at Oberlin College, the Grace Talcott Hospital in Shunteh-foo, China, and of course the beautiful Talcott Arboretum at Mount Holyoke College.

In 1899, Talcott bequeathed $10,000 toward the completion of the greenhouses, which were begun in 1897, following the devastating fire of the original greenhouse in 1896. A final wing, featuring a tropical conservatory, was finished in 1899.

A Prelude to Spring

A notice in the College calendar dated March 7, 1971, invites members of the MHC community to “Love a Plant This Week” and refers to “the spring display,” indicating the first official spring flower show. According to a newspaper article a couple of years later, the display was intended “to provide students, faculty and the community with a prelude to the spring vacation at the College.”

After almost 100 years of continuous use, the greenhouse received much-needed renovations in the mid 1990s. Today, the Talcott Greenhouse displays a living collection of plants from around the world, while supporting academic plant research at Mount Holyoke and providing a valuable community resource.

Since the inaugural show the Talcott Arboretum annually showcases hundreds of spring-blossoming bulbs and plants. “It’s really colorful,” says Russ Billings, “Everyone wants to see a little bit of spring right about now.”

Each year the show has a theme, and this year’s is “Birds in the Backyard.” The display will be divided into “front yard,” “the woods,” and “backyard” sections. Real birds’ nests collected months ago on campus will be visible among the blooms.

When the flower show concludes many of the bulbs are planted around the Mount Holyoke grounds.

spring flower bulb show

Annual Spring Flower Show

Saturday, March 1–Sunday, March 16, 2014
10:00 am–4:00 pm

Talcott Greenhouse, MHC Botanic Garden, South Hadley, MA 01075
Show is FREE and open to the public.
Groups welcome with advance notice; call 413-538-2116. Wheelchair accessible.

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