The Muttart Conservatory is one of Edmonton’s most iconic landmarks, offering a year-round escape into the beauty of the world’s plant life. As a grower at the Muttart Conservatory, it’s my job to create and maintain that beauty for the enjoyment of citizens and visitors.
Three of the four pyramids at the Muttart represent different biomes of the world – temperate, tropical and arid. The fourth is the Feature Pyramid which changes several times during the year to provide new experiences for visitors and highlight different seasons and themes. Designing the Feature Pyramid shows is always a labour of love, but this summer’s show, Pretty in Pink… Who Are You Thinking Of ?, is so much more…
My sister’s name was Linda May Dixon, and at Christmas time in 2008 she called me to let me know she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. I was blown out of the water. I have a friend who told me that diagnosis of breast cancer isn’t an automatic death sentence – that there is room for hope. So I gave my sister what confidence and solace I could from long distance.
She started her chemotherapy in February of 2009. She called me in September to say that she was having a double mastectomy, and she wasn’t expected to do well. But she came through with flying colours. At Christmas time, she had an operation to remove all of her lymph nodes. She came through that one fine. And then her doctor called me in February of 2010 to let me know that they had done a brain scan and had found multiple tumors on both sides. On June 1st of last year, my sister died.
A month later I started a new role as the Feature Pyramid grower. One of the first jobs I was given was to design the 2011 summer show. Normally when we design a show, we look at new products from the plant-breeders, choosing new flowers and novelties we hope the public will like. We come up with a theme, and we put it all together.
But this time, the theme wasn’t coming. My mind was filled with thoughts of my sister. I couldn’t concentrate on designing the show. Every time I turned on the radio somebody was racing for the cure or selling a pink kitchen gadget. I would get a quarter in my change and there would be a pink ribbon on it. And I realized just how prevalent this disease was and how many people it affected.
I looked around the pyramid and pictured hundreds of flowers, and I thought – What if they were all pink? It could represent all the women – and men – who have ever fought this disease or been touched by it. It was a celebration of the victory over breast cancer and a memorial tribute for those who had not won their battle. Then I thought of a title: “Pretty in Pink.” It was an old Molly Ringwald movie. It’s flowers. They’re pretty. They’re pink. But the other half of the title – “Who Are You Thinking Of?” – that too was personal. I pictured visitors coming up the ramp, seeing all these hundreds of blossoms, and I thought of my sister, Linda. I wanted other people to experience that – to visit the show and think of their friends and loved ones, here and gone. I hope I have succeeded.
The ribbon rising from the floor of the pyramid represents the spirit, if you will, of the Breast Cancer Foundation, rising like our hopes that this disease will be beaten.
“Pretty in Pink… Who Are You Thinking Of?” runs from June 25 to October 2 at the Muttart Conservatory.
Bob Dixon, Feature Pyramid Grower, Muttart Conservatory