Pumpkins Aglow, Harvest Blooms bring festive fall fun to the Franklin Park Conservatory

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One of the two pumpkin houses that visitors to the Franklin Park Conservatory are invited to explore this fall. Credit: Courtesy of Sam Gugliemotto

The outdoor gardens and courtyards of the Franklin Park Conservatory have undergone an autumnal transformation.

The conservatory’s annual fall exhibition, Harvest Blooms, which will be open through Oct. 31, features thousands of pumpkins, flowers and ornamental vegetables, Amanda Bettin, assistant director of horticulture at the conservatory, said. In the evening, the exhibition transforms into Pumpkins Aglow, a special event boasting glowing jack-o’-lanterns and themed light displays, according to the conservatory’s website .

Bettin, a 2007 Ohio State alumna, said the conservatory takes a thoughtful and detailed approach when designing the Harvest Blooms display each year. She said employees focus on bringing in the familiar fall colors and plants that Ohioans know and love.

“It’s really garden art to us, and we know that that comes through whenever visitors come and see our different installations,” Bettin said. “So when it comes to fall and harvest blends, we use our palette of pumpkins and mums and cabbages and kales and pansies and straw bales and fodder shocks and just anything ‘fall’ to paint a beautiful garden display for our visitors.”

Bettin said the exhibition has seven major installations, with many smaller-scale displays scattered throughout the gardens. She said Harvest Blooms, which went on display Sept. 25, is far from a one-stop shop and, instead, requires visitors to explore the gardens in order to fully experience it.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is its two pumpkin houses, one of which is 10 feet tall and made of over 350 pumpkins.

“It’s got all sorts of different kinds of pumpkins on it, and it’s just like walking into a magical fairyland,” Bettin said.

At 5 p.m. on select days, the outdoor gardens that house Harvest Blooms transform into Pumpkins Aglow, a nighttime celebration filled with live entertainment, food vendors, glowing jack-o’-lanterns and more, Karin Noecker, director of horticulture and exhibitions at the conservatory, said.

In preparation for the event, Noecker said starting Monday, conservatory staff and volunteers will carve 250 pumpkins per week for three weeks. The pumpkins are themed to fit the variety of experiences the conservatory has created for Pumpkins Aglow, including a large pumpkin patch and a witch-themed area.

“Our entire staff, whether you’re in the marketing department or the events department, you know, everybody is carving,” Noecker said.

Bettin said she hopes visitors will be able to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and experience a little magic when they come to visit the conservatory’s gardens this fall.

“The technology that you’re surrounded by and the noise of the world we live in, physically, literally, it can all be calmed by taking a moment in a beautiful garden,” Bettin said. “I think we could all benefit from spending more time outdoors, whether it’s at the conservatory or at a metro park, or, you know, anywhere. Just spending time outdoors, it’s good for the soul.”

Harvest Blooms will be on display through Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is included with admission to the conservatory. General admission to the conservatory is $19, but Ohio State students can purchase admission to the conservatory through D-Tix for $7.

A separate ticket is required for the Pumpkins Aglow evening experience, which will take place Wednesday through Sunday evenings over the next three weeks. Tickets are $22 for general admission to the exhibition, and admission for college students is $19.

More information about Harvest Blooms and Pumpkins Aglow can be found on the conservatory’s website .

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