If you’ve ever made a wish on your birthday or when seeing a falling star, the Muttart Conservatory’s Chinese New Year feature pyramid will be a special place for you. Designed in consultation with the Chinese Gardening Society, the feature pyramid brings together flowers, colours and other elements that are traditional emblems of good fortune in much of Chinese culture.
Muttart Conservatory Grower Eric Gibson points to the red and gold colours throughout the pyramid as bringers of joy, truth and virtue.
“Chinese folklore claims that the Chinese New Year originated from the myth of the Nian, a beast that comes out around the Chinese New Year to attack people. The Nian is said to be afraid of the colour red.”
The good fortune symbolized within the pyramid isn’t just about keeping the Nian away. It also includes prosperity, most vividly seen in trees hung with Hong Bao gift envelopes.
“A number of different plants are known as money trees,” Eric said, “such as the jade plant. The ZZ plant, known as Jing qian shu in Chinese, is a very different plant–but it is also considered a money tree because its leaves resemble ancient Chinese coins.”
The colourful Celosia, also called the Phoenix Tail, combines harmony with good fortune and has been popular with visitors to the pyramid.
Because 2013 is the Year of the Snake, visitors will find a friendly blue serpent in a sea of red and yellow flowers. Snakes are associated with female energy, passion and success. As with most of the Muttart’s unique decorations, the water snake was created by Edmonton artist Memi Von Gaza.
Eric’s favourite parts of the Chinese New Year pyramid are the red lanterns hanging throughout.
“They draw people’s eyes up and add a new dimension to their experience. They also glow nicely with the new pyramid lights.”
More than a year of planning has gone into the development of this feature pyramid, including growing the plants and finding the optimal location for each plant’s different needs in terms of humidity and light. Its work Eric particularly enjoys.
He says, “All of the growers have to recognize that there are unique microclimates within the pyramids and choose the right location for each plant.”
To Eric, the Chinese New Year pyramid is a special oasis—but he already feels like a lucky guy.
“When we’re installing a new pyramid, four growers work over five days to change everything, right down to the bricks. But it doesn’t feel like work to me, because I love it. I’ve loved plants since my grandmother was teaching me to garden, as a child. Now, I’m able to create a paradise.”
Bring yourself a little extra luck for 2013: visit the Chinese New Year paradise between now and February 24 at the Muttart Conservatory. While you’re there, look for upcoming events or sign up for a children or adult program. Starting in March, the new feature pyramid will take you Up, Up, and Away.