There is a place beyond the concrete walls of East Dallas, on the shores of White Rock Lake, where flowers bloom and grass sprouts with gray dewdrops and where the colors of each season are captured in inviting displays.
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is everyone’s backyard.
From flowers to pumpkins to large-leaved plants, lush greens and golds alongside reds and oranges spill over the winding paths that lead to “Pumpkin Village.”
The garden hosts multiple themed events complemented by seasonal horticultural displays that bring the colors and theme to life. This year, it kicked off its fall at the Arboretum: A Fall Fairy Tale festival on September 17, showcasing more than 100,000 pumpkins and gourds on 66 acres, all centered around a fairy tale theme.
The arboretum tries to offer visitors all the flavors of fall and form an emotional connection that gives them a sense of the season, said Dustin Miller, the arboretum’s senior director of experience and innovation.
“It’s fall, so it’s all about the flavors. It’s about what pumpkins and hay and corn stalks look like,” Miller said.
While the presentation may be elegant and serene, the setup was a race against time.
By the Tuesday after Labor Day, semi-trailers begin transporting the 100,000 pumpkins and gourds from a family farm in Floydada, Texas, to the arboretum, said Megan Proska, the arboretum’s director of horticulture. A team of 50 employees and volunteers unload the pumpkins over four days, and because they don’t work weekends, they only have five days to set and organize them before opening weekend.
The team often works on an assembly line to transport and stack the largest pumpkins, hundreds of which can weigh more than 50 pounds, Miller said.
But setup is only half the battle, as screens require constant maintenance to keep pumpkins fresh.
The sun wreaks havoc on pumpkins, Proska said. It can burn your hides and cause them to rot, requiring teams to replace or consolidate them daily throughout the season. If necessary, a second installment replenishes the common orange squashes around October.
“Since we’ve only been open a week, we’ve seen a lot of scorch on the pumpkins, so they’re not as vibrant in their colors anymore,” he said.
Even after the fall festival ends, the gourds are put to use, Proska said. The rotten ones are composted throughout the season, and the extras are donated to places like the Texas Gourd Society for gourd art, pig farms and animal shelters for food and toys, or the Dallas Zoo to enrich the mental health of animals. Visitors visiting the zoo in the fall can see a lion with pumpkins in his cage.
Pumpkin placement and maintenance aren’t the only challenges when hosting your fairytale-themed event.
The festival also features exhibits based on Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Sword in the Stone, and The Three Little Pigs.
Themes are decided a year before each festival, and metal structures like Cinderella’s carriage and Jack and the Beanstalk vine are built months in advance, Proska said. The teams then work on color schemes and arrangements to ensure the theme is captured.
White pumpkins were placed around the bean stalk and base of Jack’s house to give the impression that it was rising into the clouds and provide that whimsical feel, Miller said.
The arboretum focuses on the finer details, matching weekly events with each exhibit in color and theme. This could be an edamame vendor parked outside Jack’s house or a petting zoo with three little pigs on the loose in Pumpkin Village, he said.
Proska said she enjoys the opportunity to play with different colored flowers, grasses and vegetables and fit them into the season’s color palette.
Rich hues and vibrant plant life form the perfect backdrop for memorable moments.
Arlington resident Cristina Cruz said that 18 years ago, her mother knew the arboretum would be the perfect location for Cruz’s quinceañera photos the moment she saw the flowers. Now, Cruz wanted to recreate that experience for her own daughter, she said.
The family bought hunting dresses from store to store, but Cruz said her daughter knew what she wanted from day one: an emerald green and gold dress dazzled with soft diamonds.
At the arboretum, Cruz and her family found a bench by a calm stream and sat their daughter down, scattering the dress in all directions like a deep-blooming jewel, greener than the thick sage of the trees and the grass that sprouted behind it. her.
“We walk around and everyone tells her that she looks so beautiful or that little girls think she is a princess. It is a magical moment for us. We even cried when we first walked in,” she said.
Taking photos at the arboretum has become a family tradition, and she was able to enjoy this moment with her brother for the second time, who was just a baby when he attended Cruz’s quinceañera photos, she said.
Every time someone walks into the arboretum, there will be an array of blooming plants to give them that colorful backdrop in a way most gardens don’t, Miller said. It is a backyard for millions of people and a place you can feel at home.
“There is a plant color and a flower for everyone,” he said.