December, 2012 – A Holiday Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Each year the horticulture department at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum prepares an elegant and colorful display of seasonal flowers and trees just in time for the holiday season. The Courtyard display, dubbed A Holiday Garden, is a rich and festive array featuring dark forest greens and shades of red and silver, adding to the excitement of the season. This holiday tradition showcases dark red poinsettias, and silver artemisia, also known as dusty miller. Bright red berries of pyracantha shrubs and the blooms of amaryllis brighten winter shadows.

“A Holiday Garden is one of the most colorful and celebrated Courtyard displays each year,” said Stan Kozak, Chief Horticulturist at the Gardner Museum. “The deep red poinsettias that punctuate the Courtyard help usher in the holiday season.”

History of the poinsettia can be traced back to the 14th century when records show that Quetzalcoatl used the sap to control fevers. They later made their first known appearance in the United States when Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, sent them to his greenhouse in South Carolina in 1828. The first commercial grower was Colonel Robert Carr, owner of Bartram Nursery in Philadelphia, who exhibited them in 1829 at the Philadelphia Horticulture Society. Mass production was initialed around 1920 by a California horticulturalist Paul Ecke, who marketed them as a Christmas flower.  Archival records trace evidence of poinsettias in the Courtyard back to 1949, when director Morris Carter included a sprinkling of red and cream poinsettias in the holiday display.  A Holiday Garden will be on display throughout the month of December.