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Fall and Winter Busy for Gardeners

It may seem like the “off” season, but ABQ BioPark horticulture staff members are busy bees during the cooler months.

Oct. 31, 2018 - Many guests may never guess that the fall and winter seasons are bustling for gardeners at the ABQ BioPark. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at some of the activities staff are up to during the cooler seasons.

Routine Maintenance in the Fall

Each fall, BioPark staff aerates and reseeds the Festival Green lawn—this is the perfect time to fill in any bare spots left from wear and tear over the summer. Staff also does some light pruning in the fall, although most of this is done in late winter. Gardeners keep most of the leaves in the garden to help mulch and protect plants over the winter. However, the Japanese Garden gets above average quantities of leaves from surrounding cottonwoods and so staff spends a lot of time cleaning these up in the autumn.

Fall Fiesta of Flowers

The ABQ BioPark boasts its Fall Fiesta of Flowers show at the Zoo, Botanic Garden and Aquarium starting in September. The show features seasonal flowers like chrysanthemums in yellow, burgundy and orange. You’ll also spot pansies, pumpkins and kale. These flowers are started by horticulture staff at the Zoo’s greenhouse in July each year and are transported to the three facilities in September, and gardeners create special displays. Staff plants some of the mums around the Botanic Garden and Zoo, and others are placed in planters as part of larger displays like the one in the Aquarium/Botanic Garden courtyard.

River of Lights

After the first freeze, gardeners transform the Botanic Garden into a winter wonderland just in time for River of Lights, which begins just after Thanksgiving. Hundreds of poinsettias that were started at the Zoo greenhouse make their way to the garden to decorate the two indoor conservatories. Staff members also hang lights, and install hanging baskets in the conservatories. Staff members also arrange tree stands holding hundreds of poinsettias to construct one massive poinsettia “tree.” During this time, evergreen arrangements are on display in the garden’s empty pots. According to staff, all of this preparation takes about a month.

Winter Fire Colors Show

After River of Lights, the Botanic Garden goes straight into its Winter Fire Colors show in the Mediterranean Conservatory. This show begins in January and lasts into April, with new flowering plants and colorful foliage rotated in each month.

Preparing for Spring

In January, gardeners begin their preparation for spring by raking, cutting perennials and grasses back, and mulching. This work continues into March. After Mother’s Day, staff starts planting containers and selected flower beds with thousands of annual flowers. Back at the Zoo’s greenhouse, horticulture staff starts seeding for the spring crop in January. Once the seeds have sprouted, staff across the garden and Zoo spend weeks planting thousands of annuals.