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Reflections on 12.12.12

One Day on Earth: 24 Hours in the Chicago Botanic Garden

Julie McCaffrey —  December 19, 2012 — Leave a comment

Two Garden staffers set out to capture 12 hours of the Chicago Botanic Garden on 12-12-2012 to submit to the One Day on Earth project. It turned out to be an ideal day to capture winter beauty with clear skies and lots of wildlife. We saw the lights at the Lake Cook Road entrance while it was still dark, the sunrise over the Malott Japanese Garden, gorgeous morning sun on the display gardens, the indoor Wonderland Express exhibition, the sunset over the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden, the holiday lights on The Esplanade and the indoor Greenhouses. Wonderland Express is open through Jan. 6, 2013, so don’t miss it!


©2012 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

“I wonder…”  It’s a phrase we hear a lot at the holidays, especially about the outdoor light show that accompanies Wonderland Express, and it inspired us to gather the answers to your FAQs.

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I wonder how many lights there are.  750,000, give or take a string.

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I wonder what kind of lights they use.  LEDs, for the same reasons you have them at home: they last longer and use just 10 percent of the energy of incandescents.

I wonder how long it takes to put up all the lights.  Crews start stringing outdoor lights in October, using ladders or hydraulic truck lifts to reach the tops of the trees.

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I wonder how many lights are on that big tree.  About 300 strings of LEDs light up the approximately 40-foot tree on the Esplanade.

I wonder if they re-use the lights every year.  Most lights are installed and removed by hand every year, tested, wrapped, and stored to re-use the next year. Some lights (entrance road, outer wall) are left on trees for two to three years. As you can imagine, damage from wind and weather and the occasional we-just-couldn’t-reach-it issue cause us to lose some lights every year. For an in-depth look at light installation and removal—and to see a tree delivered by helicopter—check out this video.

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I wonder if the lights are up for Thanksgiving.  Yes! The lights get turned on next Tuesday, November 20, in plenty of time for you to bring family and friends for a pre- or post-Thanksgiving dinner stroll around the grounds.

Bring your sense of wonder.


©2012 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

The new feature in Wonderland Express this year is The Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup. We’ve identified some of the natural materials that make up all four of the Chicago sports features in this video. When you visit, you’ll see eleven garden-scale trains travel past over 80 Chicago landmarks creatively made from materials you might find in your own backyard! Visit chicagobotanic.org/wonderland for tickets and information.

Go behind the scenes to see what it takes to put together the 10,000-square-foot Wonderland Express exhibition. Heather Sherwood, Senior Horticulturist, plants a six-foot poinsettia sphere to be displayed in the Temperate Greenhouse during the exhibition.

The trains, buildings and snow in Wonderland Express — don’t miss experiencing it yourself in person!