December 11, 2008 in Voices

Many hands make holiday lights work

Gaiser Conservatory show a joint effort
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

Tara Newbury and Kathleen Miller take a break to look at all their decorating work they have completed inside the Gaiser Conservatory, Tuesdayat Manito Park. Spokane Parks and Recreation along with the Friends of Manito are preparing for the Holiday Lights display, Friday through Dec. 21. They recommend after 4 p.m. for the best viewing.
(Full-size photo)

Manito Holiday Light Show

The light show at the Gaiser Conservatory opens Friday and runs through Dec. 21. Hours are from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.

The Friends of Manito will be hosting a free open house in the meeting room just east of the Gaiser Conservatory Saturday and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served during this time. For more information, call (509) 456-8038

Poinsettia facts

The poinsettia was named after former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel R. Poinsett, who introduced the poinsettia to the United States.

Dec. 12 is celebrated as National Poinsettia Day, in honor of the day Joel R. Poinsett died.

Recent research has shown that poinsettias are not poisonous, but ingesting the leaves will upset your stomach.


Proper poinsettia care

Here are a few pointers on how to keep your poinsettia bright and blooming:

•A poinsettia likes good light – not burning sun (like we need to worry about that in December) but bright light.

•Let it dry out, then water thoroughly and make sure the pot drains properly.

•Poinsettias do not like prolonged exposure to cold – remember, they are native to Mexico.

Can you keep it for next year? Sure – but the plant needs special care to bloom again; to accomplish that, seek advice from your florist or a gardener.

Source: Kathleen Miller, Gaiser Conservatory

The fuchsia-colored Christmas cactus is 102 years old. It’s beautiful and almost at the peak of blooming, but it can’t overshadow the 12 different kinds of poinsettias that provide a beautiful red speckled background to the Holiday Light Show at the Gaiser Conservatory.

Since 1994, the Friends of Manito and Spokane Parks and Recreation staff at Manito’s Gaiser Conservatory have joined forces to put on an annual holiday light show inside the cozy greenhouse.

“They didn’t do it during ice storm, but I think that’s the only year we’ve skipped,” said Kathleen Miller, who designs and maintains the Gaiser Conservatory. “It’s a free show. It’s the Friends of Manito’s way to say thank you for the community’s support during the rest of the year.”

More than 30,000 Christmas lights are strung up the tree trunks, around cacti, over scrubs and around the planting tables. Lit snowflakes dangle from the tall ceilings along side glittering balls – and candy canes line the flowerbeds.

“New this year is the sleigh that goes with the reindeer, and the lit-up presents,” Miller said. “And there’s a little village by the front door.”

The show brings thousands of people to the greenhouse in the middle of winter.

There are more than 600 poinsettias on display; all have been cultivated at the conservatory.

“We get them in June when they are about three inches tall, and grow them to a standard size poinsettia like the ones you’ll put on your table,” said Miller. Some of the plants are kept from year-to-year and have grown into small trees that are several feet tall. That’s not an easy feat for amateur gardeners to accomplish.

“People always want to know if they can get their poinsettia to bloom again next year. I usually say to throw it out and just buy a new one,” said Kathleen Miller, who designs and maintains the Gaiser Conservatory. “Poinsettias need a lot of very specific pruning and trimming to bloom again. Most people don’t want to fuss with that.”

It’s the staff at the conservatory – including Tara Newberry, Paul Haberbush and Stephanie O’Byrne – who string most of the lights. Volunteers from the Friends of Manito take the lights down and pack them away.

“We are so grateful for their help, it’s such a tedious job to pack up the lights,” said Miller. “But the show is a wonderful thing for us to make happen.”

Reach Pia Hallenberg Christensen at (509) 459-5427 or

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