Have you visited The Leaf and been awed by the stunning displays of flowers and plants?

Behind every beautiful display, there is a team of talented horticulturists who work tirelessly to create a masterpiece. At The Leaf, our horticulture team is responsible for designing and planting our outdoor gardens and indoor spaces, including our upcoming seasonal display "Emerge".  

Come behind the scenes as we talk to Carmen Grey, our horticultural operations coordinator, to learn about the hard work that goes into planning and executing a display. From choosing the right plants to creating a cohesive design, our horticulture team is passionate about showcasing nature's beauty.

Carmen Grey in the Display Biome

How did the idea for Emerge come to be?

Carmen Grey: Each concept is determined by a collaborative team at APC that works to identify themes, motifs, and an overall sense of how a show will look and feel. These preliminary details are established early on and we build out from keywords, phrases, or feelings that we want to evoke from the display.

Our current show “Emerge” centers around the idea of “emerging” from winter. Because “Emerge” occurs during the transition between winter to spring, we placed a heavy emphasis on new smells, new experiences, turning soil in the garden and watching seedlings sprout from the ground.

Display plans on paper

Tulips ready to plant in boxes

What does planning a display change entail?

CG: First, we need to plan out the design for the display. APC’s Horticulture Curator, Wade Meisner creates a concept drawing of the Babs Asper Display House based on information gathered during the concept development phase. This concept drawing presents a rough idea of the different zones and various features within the show; as it is developed further, the concept evolves into a layout plan. This plan outlines requirements like plant material, props, and supplies.

Ordering materials begins as soon as plans are finalized. It happens quite early. For instance, we are already sourcing design elements for the 2023 Holiday Show.

A great deal of effort goes into the timing of certain plant crops for the display, an example of this is starting cuttings of alternanthera in March for installation in June. For plants, we factor in how long a crop usually takes to bloom and for props, we consider how long an item will take to manufacture or how long it will take to get to Winnipeg.

Displays are rotated out five times each year. We call the change from one display to another a “change over”. This is a three-day period where The Leaf biomes are closed to the public and the previous display is removed. In the short span of three days our team of skilled horticulturalists create a captivating display, bursting with vibrant plants and colours, giving people a new and exciting reason to visit The Leaf.

Unpacking and planting flowers for the spring display

Gardeners planting flowers for the spring display

What are some of the features of the Emerge Show?

CG: As you enter the spring wonderland, your attention will be immediately drawn to the stunning floral columns that surround you. Continuing on, you will come across the Potting Shed, a rustic set piece that provides a glimpse into the pre-garden season. Inside, you can admire an array of dried flowers and a collection of aromatic herbs, which may inspire you to start sowing seeds in preparation for the growing season. Throughout the display, flowering trees, shrubs, and an ever-changing array of blooms will showcase the beauty of spring.

This exhibition draws inspiration from the famous Keukenhof botanical garden in the Netherlands, renowned for its annual spring show featuring tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths.

Guests enjoying the Emerge display

What do you hope people feel or experience as they walk through the display?

CG: After a period of contemplation and rest in the Unfurl display, the Emerge display has come to life with a burst of colour and energy. People will be awakened by the fragrant scents, captivating sights, and soothing sounds of spring, such as the vibrant tulips, lush greenery, and gentle flow of water. It's a reminder that even after a season of dormancy, new life and growth can always emerge.

I hope the display ignites a sense of wonder and excitement in visitors, inspiring them to anticipate the season ahead and spend more time outside. I know people will leave feeling rejuvenated and they may even have a desire to explore gardening in their own outdoor space.

Potting shed feature in the Emerge display with pots and dried flowers

Water stream feature with rocks and flowers in the Emerge display