Working with plants is undoubtedly a science—but it’s also an art form rooted in patience, collaboration, resilience, and adaptability. Just like plants themselves, the Longwood team is adaptable—especially when the living things they’re working with don’t respond the way in which they planned. When that happens, they regroup, replan, and readapt—just like they recently had to do with their Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum, which—after an arduous journey to get it there—is now on view in our Main Conservatory. Showcasing 1,366 flowers on a single plant and stretching more than 12 feet in diameter—making it the widest Thousand Bloom they have ever grown at Longwood—this year’s Thousand Bloom of Chrysanthemum × morifolium ‘Susono-no-Hikari’ started its journey as a vegetative cutting 18 months ago—and today is not only a sight to behold, but a culminating example of the unchanging beauty and art of people and plants working together. What’s more, the team is particularly proud of this Thousand Bloom as it also represents the triumphant return of the Thousand Bloom form to our display following a two-year absence.
Growing the Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum, known in Japan as Ozukuri, is a difficult and precarious process and technique that originated in China and expanded to Japan several hundred years ago. The goal of the technique is growing an extremely large chrysanthemum and producing the maximum number of flowers possible on a single plant. In preparation for each Chrysanthemum Festival, our expert horticulturists grow and nurture our Thousand Bloom throughout a horticulturally intense, 18-month-long process of growing, pinching, and tying of the chrysanthemum to its customized frame. After a wilting period to allow the stems to become more flexible, the team arranged the blooms in a dome shape in pursuit of the goal of achieving as many uniform blooms as possible on a single plant. If that doesn’t sound difficult enough, the technique also requires that there is only a single bloom on the end of each individual branch; none of the flowers on the sides of the branch can be used. To further complicate matters, each flower must be perfectly placed in concentric horizontal rows on a dome-shaped frame.
This process begins from scratch for each Thousand Bloom and for each display year. Bringing this year’s Thousand Bloom to display required teamwork and coordination across many teams. As Floriculture Manager Kevin Murphy shares, “Growing the Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum is truly a team effort that involves staff from across many different sections of Longwood—but none more important than the grower. The Thousand Bloom Grower is the one making the daily decisions that culminate into the end product you see on display.”
Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemums made their display debut at Longwood in 2009, and throughout those years, they have had three Thousand Bloom experts hone this craft, all of whom have been women. Our first Thousand Bloom grower, Yoko Arakawa, identified this technique as something she wanted to learn and bring to Longwood and spent years training with Thousand Bloom experts in Japan and adapting the technique for our conditions at Longwood. Since that time, Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemums have been a central facet of our Chrysanthemum Festival.
Read more at longwoodgardens.org