Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens embraces the colors of summer
By Susan Stapleton
Perhaps if Claude Monet were still alive, he would settle in at the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens to inspire his next masterpiece. To one side sits a carousel that lights up at night with ponies prancing around in circles. Two bumblebees decked out in 351 sunflowers and 864 mums with hand-sewn wings play up above. Two ladybugs made with 1,200 carnations go about their business. A stunning swan gracefully guards a bridge. Extravagantly decorated butterflies flutter about while umbrellas covered in orchid attire float nearby. Two egrets with their nests filled with eggs wade in a pond. An 8-foot sailboat drifts near a Victorian gazebo and a waterfall where a 22-foot poppy stands guard. Near that is a frog bulging with 1,500 mums. Overseeing all that is a 26-foot-tall lighthouse rimmed in nautical blue and white.
While the new discoveries at every turn surely would inspire Monet, it’s the flowers, thousands of flowers that fill the air with their aromatic fragrance, taking up 7,300 square feet of planting space, that would catch his artistic imagination. Sunflowers, hydrangeas, salvias, impatiens, Persian violets, calandivas, azaleas, calla lilies, miniature roses and yellow chrysanthemums, 80,300 in all, make up the display. Peppered about are 800 shrubs blossoming with hibiscuses, gardenias, azaleas and more, 1,500 ivies with their vines slinking about and 28 trees, giving the exhibit elevation.
And perhaps the star of the show, Claude Monet’s Fisherman’s Cottage on the Cliffs at Varengeville (1882), sits in a 4-by-6-foot frame, a replica made with flowers changed out with 1,000 newbies every week.
Andrés Garcia works six months in advance to create the vision for the display that transforms five times a year. About 90 percent of the exhibit changes from year to year, says Bellagio’s executive director of horticulture. “This is the biggest display on the Strip, and I get to perform there,” he says.
Perform, indeed. One new feature is live music played in the Victorian gazebo. A harp and violin set the tone for the room with Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Chopin wafting among the flowers.
Already, Garcia is concentrating on his Christmas display. Fall is already in the books. “It really helps my team with my vendors, because then we really have time to fine-tune the props,” Garcia says. “I am thinking of spring for next year right now. We work it out and then we put up a beautiful display.” After all, it takes 50 to 75 people six days, working 24/7, to change out the entire exhibit.
For now, Garcia’s staff has its collective eye on the summer garden, changing out 8,000 flowers weekly. And perhaps the next Monet is finding inspiration as well.