Every year, Smithsonian Gardens decorates the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. with festive plants for the holidays.  This year, SG recorded a few time-lapse videos showing what the process looks like at the National Museum of American History (NMAH), National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), and Smithsonian Castle.  Watch (at a lightning pace) how the whole thing comes together and discover a bit about the long and involved process of planning these annual displays. 

This year at NMAH, SG installed a 17-foot tree next to the Star-Spangled Banner exhibit on the museum’s 2nd floor.  This tree came from Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, nestled in one of the many valleys of the Appalachian Mountains, and is still living and will be watered frequently during its time in the museum.  The red, white, and blue ornaments reflect the colors of the American flag and include large and small baubles, stars, icicles, and pinecones.  In addition to the tree, the nearby George Washington sculpture is adorned with garland and red bows, and the third floor’s railing and columns are decorated with handsome wreaths. 

At NMNH, SG took a different approach to the traditional holiday tree and made one of its own!  This “tree” is comprised of over 100 bromeliads that mimic garland and ornaments through their different colors and shapes.   Strands of plastic moss have been added in between the planters to complete the look.   The “tree” is joined by potted evergreen and poinsettia displays throughout the museum, adding to the festive spirit. 

The grand halls of the Smithsonian Castle are adorned with fitting decorations such as wreaths hanging in the windows, garland, and two trees – a large one in the center of the room and a second by the entrance to the Castle Café.  Red, gold, and white ornaments add a classic look to the tree.  Like the one at NMAH, this live tree from Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, will be tended to throughout the holiday season. 

While we wish everything could come together as quickly as it does in these videos, it is important to remember the extensive behind-the-scenes planning that SG puts into all of its annual holiday decorations.  This is a year-round process; as soon as the decorations come down in January, planning for next year is already underway. The poinsettias are chosen and ordered in April, with liners delivered to the Smithsonian Gardens Greenhouse Facility in Suitland, Maryland around July.  Also, around that time, many of the other plants set to line the museums’ halls during the winter season are selected and ordered.  October and November are always busy months with SG horticulturists decorating wreaths, organizing the ornaments, and wrapping up any final preparations that are necessary.  Luckily, SG was able to inventory all of its holiday decorations during the pandemic which kept everything running smoothly.  We hope you enjoyed this look behind the curtain at the Smithsonian museums this holiday season and that you come to see the holiday decorations in person if you are in D.C.!