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Care and Pride: Students Prep Fall Mum Show
Two things that Sasha Zeidenberg ’22 and Mai Klooster ’23J say they have learned about chrysanthemums: The plants are surprisingly fragile—and they grow surprisingly fast.
“They are constantly growing and shedding leaves,” says Zeidenberg, from her perch on a bench in Lyman Plant House, surrounded by colorful blooms.
“We see differences from day to day,” adds Klooster. “Their whole life cycle is right there in front of us.”
The two students—who are both working at the Botanic Garden of Smith College this semester—have been busy helping to set up the Fall Chrysanthemum Show, a more than 100-year-old college tradition that opens virtually on Saturday, November 6.
Smith students, faculty and staff participating in the college’s asymptomatic testing program can visit the show in-person from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays from Monday, Nov. 8 through Wednesday, Nov. 24. A Smith OneCard is required for entry.
Members of the Friends of the Botanic Garden can also preregister to visit the display. Due to COVID safety concerns, this year’s Mum Show is once again closed to in-person visits by the general public.
Zeidenberg, who is majoring in biological sciences, has been involved with the Botanic Garden since her first semester at Smith, but this semester marks the first time she has “officially” been part of the Mum Show.
“The horticulture classes I took as a first-year got me hooked on the Botanic Garden,” she says. “I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do after graduation, but I know that plants will be part of it.”
Klooster, who is majoring in music, says her passion for plants also has grown during her time at Smith.
“As a music major and a computer science minor, horticulture has been mostly a hobby and an extra thing,” she says. “But I love it so much that I’m seriously considering doing something with it after graduation.”
For the past several weeks, the two students have been focused on keeping the 202 pots of chrysanthemums that will be displayed during the show healthy and happy.
“They need constant care and upkeep,” says Zeidenberg. “We really want them to look their best.”
They’re proud of the wide variety of mums grown from cuttings that will be featured in this year’s show.
And, of course, they have their favorites.
“Mine are the big red ones in the right hand corner,” says Klooster, pointing to a pair of giant snowball-shaped blooms (Chrysanthemum “Domingo”). “Touching them feels like petting a bird.”
Zeidenberg also favors the exhibition mums that have been “trained” to produce a single flower.
“Those are the extra special ones; the spoon and spider mums,” she says. “They are super cool!”
Lily Carone, greenhouse horticulturist for the Botanic Garden of Smith College, says student engagement in the Mum Show is part of what makes the annual event special. For example, she cites the work of summer intern Marge Poma ’23, who spent hours repotting and staking mums for show. “Nearly every plant on display passed through her hands, and she took great care and pride in her work,” Carone says.
Tim Johnson, director of the Botanic Garden, says staff and students are “very excited to be welcoming Smith College campus community members back for this year’s Mum Show, and we know that the public will be able to experience the essence of the show through our livestream and social media channels.”
For their part, Zeidenberg and Klooster hope the Mum Show will inspire more students to view the Botanic Garden as a resource for learning—and fun.
“I love working here so much,” says Klooster. “I encourage anyone who is interested to just ask how they can be involved.”
“There are lots of events and other opportunities,” adds Zeidenberg. “Just come and hang out!”