21 November 2019

In Pictures: Glow Wild behind the scenes

From decorating the Christmas tree with 1,800 lights to making the nature-inspired lanterns...

By Katie Avis-Riordan

Staff member decking the Wakehurst Christmas tree with lights

Luminous lanterns, mesmerising light projections and evocative soundscapes are all part of the magic at Glow Wild, our winter lantern trail at Wakehurst.

But what work goes on behind the scenes to create our annual festivity?

Here at our wild botanic garden in Sussex, you'll find the tallest living Christmas tree in the UK. And, as you can imagine, decorating it is no small task.

Watch the video below to see how our dedicated team dress the mammoth tree for Glow Wild with more than 1,800 lights.

Our Christmas tree is a giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum).

Did you know, this amazing redwood species can live to over 3,000 years and is the largest living organism by volume on Earth?

The largest redwood in the world lives in Sequoia National Park, California. Nicknamed General Sherman, the tree stands at 84 metres tall and over 11 metres wide.

Our festive sequoia doesn't quite beat that but it's still a whopping 37 metres in height. So it was all hands on deck to dress it in lights...

Staff member decking the Wakehurst Christmas tree with lights
Decking the Wakehurst Christmas tree, Jim Holden © RBG Kew
Looking up at Wakehurst Christmas tree lights on tree
Wakehurst Christmas tree lights, Jim Holden © RBG Kew
Illuminated Christmas tree lights on Wakehurst Christmas tree
Wakehurst Christmas tree lights, Jim Holden © RBG Kew

The sparkling tree towers over our Elizabethan Mansion, where children can enjoy lantern making at the end of the Glow Wild trail.

This year, the crafty lanterns will be in the shape of a dormouse, which kids can take home and hang on the Christmas tree.

You can also pick up your own lantern-making kit to take away with you.

Christmas tree, Wakehurst
Christmas tree, Wakehurst, Ellen McHale © RBG Kew

Before we can dress our Christmas tree, we have to prepare the huge string of lights.

Here in our Mansion, they are strategically laid out before hanging on the tree, with all the bulbs being individually tested.

For this year's event, our old white bulbs were replaced with warm yellow ones to add a beautiful golden glow to the giant redwood.

Close up of Wakehurst Christmas tree lights in storage box
Wakehurst Christmas tree lights in storage box © RBG Kew
Preparing Wakehurst Christmas tree lights in Mansion
Preparing Wakehurst Christmas tree lights © RBG Kew

Inspired by the resilience of trees, this year's trail is full of beautiful designs of woody plants and seeds.

The art complements nature as we have more than 50,000 trees across our landscape here at Wakehurst.

Artist and producer Jony Easterby designed the evocative projections on the Mansion. See some of his seed sketches that informed his designs below.

Projection design seed sketches for Glow Wild
Projection design sketches for Glow Wild © Jony Easterby

As you walk along the one-mile route, you'll spot more than 800 glowing lanterns of all different shapes and sizes.

The largest on show is the stunning moon lantern that will hang above Black Pond at 8ft in height.

Testing the moon lantern on Mansion Pond
Testing the moon lantern on Mansion Pond, Jim Holden © RBG Kew

With the wonderful botanic collection of the gardens in mind, the nature-inspired lanterns take more than 600 hours for our volunteers to construct.

Individual species, such as Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), influenced the design of the pieces.

Love-in-a-mist, Nigella damascena
Love-in-a-mist, Nigella damascena © RBG Kew
Glow Wild lanterns inspired by plants
Glow Wild lanterns inspired by plants © RBG Kew

Woven by sculptor Tom Hare, the willow tunnels are surrounded by an enchanting dance of shadow and light. 

Testing the way the willow structures create shadows from the light was part of the preparation for the trail, with Tom collaborating with light artist Mig Burgess.

Visit Glow Wild at Wakehurst to see the spellbinding trail for yourself.

Testing Glow Wild lighting
Testing Glow Wild lighting © Mig Burgess
Testing Glow Wild lighting
Testing Glow Wild lighting © Mig Burgess
Glow Wild moon and stars at Wakehurst

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