In the Pink: Annual Spring Bulb Show

After another New England winter, it is time to celebrate spring at the Lyman Conservatory. This year’s Spring Bulb Show at the Botanic Garden of Smith College is a celebration of everything pink. A luxurious array of blossoming crocuses, hyacinths, narcissi, irises, lilies and tulips will provide an early glimpse of spring  from Saturday, March 1, through Sunday, March 16.

The bulb show is open to the public daily from 10 a.m.– 4 p.m., with Friday evening hours on  March 7 and 14,  4 p.m.–8 p.m. The suggested donation is $2. Members-only hours are 9–10 a.m. daily (please bring your membership card). Groups with ten or more should schedule  in advance by calling (413) 585-2742.

On Friday, February 28, at 7:30 p.m., Holly Shimizu, executive director of the United States Botanic Garden, will open the show with a lecture, titled “The Best of Flavor and Fragrance,” in the Carroll Room of the Campus Center. Her talk will be followed by a reception and preview of the bulb show in the illuminated Lyman Conservatory. As director since 2000, Shimizu has overseen the renovation of the Conservatory, completion of the National Garden, partnership in the Sustainable Sites Initiative, and the creation of innovative exhibitions and inspiring gardens. She has worked in gardens around the world and was a host for the popular Victory Garden television show when it was still in production.

There is perhaps no other color that is so fraught with cultural, political and gender connotations as the color pink. Pink has always been a favorite of gardeners, so it is fitting that the color takes its name from a plant—Dianthus or pinks—and is derived from the frilled edge of the flowers. Though rare as a color in wild bulb species, horticulturists have selected and bred pink-hued bulbs such as tulips, narcissus and hyacinths, which will be on view this spring in the bountiful display filling the greenhouses.

The Botanic Garden’s Spring Bulb Show is a Smith College tradition that began in the early 1900s. Ordinarily blooming at different times during the spring, some 5,000 bulbs are coaxed into flowering simultaneously, while the natural landscape outside is seemingly still colorless and bare. The process begins in October, when Smith horticulture students pot up the bulbs and put them into cold storage. Starting in January, they move the bulbs to the greenhouses. It takes careful timing and temperature control to orchestrate their colorful and fragrant debut in March.

On Saturday, March 22, from noon–3 p.m., and Sunday, March 23, 9 a.m.–3 p.m., Friends of the Botanic Garden and the general public may purchase many of the hardy bulbs that appeared in the show. Inexpensively priced, these crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, narcissus, and tulip bulbs, as well as other plants, can later be planted outdoors or displayed indoors in pots. Members-only hours are Saturday, March 22, 9 a.m.–noon.

Lyman Conservatory is wheelchair accessible. Parking is available on College Lane for the two weeks of the show. For more information, contact the Botanic Garden of Smith College at (413) 585-2740 or visit the website at