Friday, June 5, 2015

Magic Lanterns at Missouri Botanical Gardens

The garden's first lantern festival was in 2012, our readers may remember my posting on that in July of that year.  That happening was such a success, the institution's biggest single event in its 154-year history, it was decided that there should be another one.  Wednesday evening we went to the garden with the purpose of hearing the country band Diesel Island, and instead spent a good part of our time while there looking at the  lantern sculptures.  There was no charge for the concert or for entrance to the gardens, the only downside to the evening was that the lanterns were not lit.  However, we still enjoyed seeing them- as well as many other people.  The garden had people picnicking and lounging everywhere, even in areas quite far from the concert shell.  I guess they, as well as we, were there for the beauty of the garden as well as for the lanterns.  And that is not to say that the music was bad, Diesel Island is a great band, one of the best country bands in St.Louis!
This year's lantern festival has new sculptures which, as before, are made of silk and porcelain.  Pictured above is the soaring dragon horse.  The scene covers the garden's central axis in front of the Climatron.  Horses with furry manes and velvet hoofs gallop toward dragon horses.  They light up and move, hopefully John and I will yet return some other evening to see that as well as the other lanterns lit.
 Pictured above is "Crane Paradise", featuring the red-crowned crane.  What I appreciated about the lantern festival this year is that many of the sculptures show the flora and fauna of China.  Interpretive signs near them mention the wetlands and nature preserves which China protects.  It is interesting to see that different perspective of a foreign country.  Also, Missouri Botanical has a collaborative relationship with the Shenghai Chenshan Botanical Garden.  Money raised from the festival helps to send scientists to study countries as Madagascar and China.
According to the Post Dispatch, the garden's president, Peter Jackson, wanted to connect the lanterns more closely with plants this year.  Rushes and cattails have been installed in the Wetland Wonders set, there are also cherry tree arches, chrysanthemums as well as dandelions.The sign near the sculpture (pictured above) notes that dandelions can be beneficial as their taproots bring up nutrients for shallower rooting plants. Recycled water bottles were used to make the dandelion sculptures.

As we were leaving the garden we walked through the visitor's enter and saw colorful large silk peonies displayed on the walls.  According to the article in the Post Dispatch, peonies were once banished in China because they did not bloom in the mid-February new year.  Now they are a symbol of wealth and honor.  There are 15 species of them found in China, of which 10 are not found elsewhere in the world.  It was during the 19th century that they, as well as lilacs, hydrangeas, primroses, and rhododendrons, were brought to the United States and Europe.  There is much to be learned and seen at the Missouri Botanical Gardens this summer!

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