Mixing horticulture and the Christmas Spirit

When the sun goes down, a garden lights up in the heart of Nashville for the prettiest holiday stroll of the season.

More than a million lights can be seen through a 55 acre botanical garden at the Cheekwood estate and garden’s “Holiday Lights” event.

Garden and facilities vice president Peter Grimaldi explains why the idea began: “Holiday light shows have become increasingly popular at public gardens across the country... There’s nothing that I could do with horticulture to draw tens of thousands of people to the front door between November, mid-November and January.”

With high expectations from the crowd, Grimaldi says that every year the design process becomes a challenge for him.

“The goal is to maintain a balance between new features and a constantly refreshed experience and a certain amount of continuity, especially during a time of year when people’s expectations rely heavily on some level of nostalgia,” he states. “At the same time, we need something new and exciting to promote and so we do try and develop and offer a new feature every year.”

Though the event is only seasonal, the intricate planning is year round. The trees and gardens are not being harmed when wrapped in lights.

“So far as when you select a tree for the show, or effectively marquee a particular tree to be wrapped in lights, we’re evaluating that tree for itself and structure,” he adds. “So, to a practical extent, the trees that are getting wrapped with lights are getting a little bit more attention and TLC than those that we do not depend on.”

Grimaldi says that the pandemic has not hurt their turn out this year, but rather amplified demand, which he says is a wonderful situation to be in.

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