24 October 2023

10 Glow Wild secrets

Delve behind the scenes of Wakehurst’s enchanting winter lantern trail.

By Katie Avis-Riordan , Ellen Reid and Ellie Wilson

Moon and stars, deer, bee and flower lanterns

1. How many artists?

There are 10 new installations this year to mark 10 years of Glow Wild. Among the artists are the award-winning OGE Group, Brighton-based community arts group SameSky, collaborations with UK artists and handwoven works by local schoolchildren.

2. How many lanterns?

You will see over 1,000 lanterns of different shapes and sizes, from those that line the route to ones in trees, as well as the large-scale feature lanterns.

Colourful handheld lanterns at Glow Wild
Handheld lanterns at Glow Wild © RBG Kew

3. How many bulbs?

Each lantern has its own bulb or ‘loom’, which is placed by hand inside each lantern.

The bulbs range in size from a small button light which needs changing throughout the event, to battery-powered bulbs linked together in sequences.

Needless to say, we keep plenty of spares!

Wakehurst is also home to the UK's tallest living Christmas tree, which is adorned each year with 1,800 lights.

4. Months of planning

Glow Wild is a big event and takes a lot of planning – 18 months before each one!

Planning pretty much starts as soon as the lanterns are taken out of the landscape to be dried and refreshed for the following year.

There are a lot of factors to consider here, from operational matters to sourcing materials for the lanterns.

Lanterns laid out indoors, made by volunteers for Glow Wild 2021
Volunteer-made lanterns, Katherine Morton © RBG Kew

5. Making the lanterns

Each small lantern may only take a few hours to make, but as there are so many it takes a team of volunteers several months to complete them all.  

Larger installations can take weeks or months to create.

Although the infrastructure for Glow Wild is set up about a month before the event, the lanterns are only put in two and a half weeks beforehand, and each one can take a number of days to install. 

6. The biggest lantern

Our iconic moon is the largest, tallest and heaviest lantern, at a whopping 2.5 metres high and 2 metres wide.

Despite its great size, the moon weighs just 25 kilograms, as like our other lanterns it is made of willow and paper.

It takes a small team of arborists to hoist it into place to watch over the Glow Wild landscape.

Moon lantern and star lanterns at Glow Wild
Glow Wild moon and stars © RBG Kew

7. Other fun facts

You might recognise the constellation of 300 stars on Black Pond as the stars of the first Glow Wild, ten years ago. We’ve reimagined them and brought them back for the tenth anniversary. 

Shining star lanterns amongst trees at Glow Wild
Star lanterns at Glow Wild, John White © RBG Kew

8. Record-breaking installations

We are proud to be record breakers!

Our giant 37-metre-high redwood is the UK's tallest living Christmas tree. It's 123 years old!

This year’s Glow Wild also features our largest ever custom installation: OGE Group’s giant whale, with a mighty tail rising 3m into the air.

Our Elizabethan mansion is currently wrapped in one of the UK’s largest outdoor art installations: Planet Wakehurst by Catherine Nelson. With an added carpet of fire by And:Now and mesmerising digital animations by Colour Project, it makes for a spectacular grand finale for the Glow Wild trail.

Staff member decking the Wakehurst Christmas tree with lights
Decking the Wakehurst Christmas tree, Jim Holden © RBG Kew

9. Natural inspiration

This year Glow Wild reflects on the awe-inspiring moments we can find in nature, from spectacular whales and huge trees to the delicate beauty at our feet. 

Keep your eyes peeled as you walk through Kerith Ogden’s ‘It’s a small world’ installation and see if you can spot all the tiny villages in the trees. 

In the Iris Dell, Brockman Page’s ‘Woven Grove’ features a mother tree sheltering 17 little trees, which will each be returned to the local schoolchildren who made them at the end of Glow Wild.

10. Festive feasts

There are plenty of tasty dining experiences at Glow Wild this year.

Family-friendly dishes will be available at Seeds Café, or why not indulge in a two-course feast at our Stables Kitchen?

Toast your own marshmallows over the fire pit at Marshmallow Corner to kick off a magical evening. From our pop-up food and drink stalls along the trail, you can tuck into loaded roast potatoes, hot dogs, mince pies and steaming cups of hot chocolate and mulled wine.

Explore the magic...

Glow Wild at Wakehurst

Glow Wild

Join us at Wakehurst for a spellbinding winter lantern trail for all ages.

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