Event designer Don Vanderbrook puts signature touch on tree for Cleveland Botanical Garden's Glow
Posted November 25, 2013 in Articles
Author: Julie Washington
When the Cleveland Botanical Garden decided to make a 24-foot evergreen into a show-stopping part of its upcoming Glow holiday event, it turned to Cleveland's nationally recognized floral and event designer Don Vanderbrook.
Vanderbrook’s storied career includes decorating inaugural balls, parties at the British Embassy and many international events and social functions in Washington, D.C., in the 1980s and ‘90s. This time of year, he’s usually busy designing Christmas trees for the Cleveland Clinic and other local institutions. But he squeezed the botanical garden’s request into his plans.
“If somebody asks me to do something here, I never say no,” said Vanderbrook, 85, a longtime supporter of the botanical garden.
On Saturday, Nov. 23, Vanderbrook and his staff will be at the garden when a live 24-foot-tall concolor fir, chosen for its sage color and soft needles, arrives. They’ll work for hours to transform it with ornaments and lights.
“I want kids to walk in and run to the tree to see how beautiful it is,” Vanderbrook said. “That’s what I’m trying to achieve.”
The lobby tree is just one facet of Glow, the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s holiday event opening Friday, Nov. 29 and running through Sunday, Jan. 5. The botanical garden will become a holiday fantasy land filled with gingerbread houses, holiday plantings, twinkling lights and seasonal taste treats.
Vanderbrook is planning a traditional design for Glow’s signature Christmas tree. He’s not a fan of blue ornaments, or ribbon as decoration. “I like straightforward and honest,” he said.
His tree will be adorned with classic red and green balls in 6-inch, 8-inch and 10-inch sizes. They will be arranged with the larger ones on the bottom and the smaller on top of the tree. That mimics the way the tree’s branches grow, he said. “It seems to have better stability,” he added.
The tree will be covered in long-lasting LED lights that go on and off slowly, “like fireflies lighting up,” Vanderbrook said. Too often, lights take over a Christmas tree, but he plans to put the lights on dimmers. “Let the ornaments come out and be important,” he said.
The botanical garden is excited to have Vanderbrook’s touch on its signature Christmas tree, said director of communications Tom O’Konowitz.
This will be Glow’s second year, and “last year we exceeded our expectations in attendance,” O’Konowitz said. About 38,000 people took part in Glow’s inaugural year. “People embraced the concept,” O’Konowitz said.
Glow includes activities for all ages, and for people who love flowers and those who don’t.
Take a Garden Express Train Ride through the outdoor gardens to see areas of the grounds that are newly festooned with lights, including the Sunken Garden. It’s a kid-sized train but it can accommodate grownups, O’Konowitz said.
View beautifully decorated gingerbread houses, some made by professional bakers and some by youngsters. Last year there were replicas of Terminal Tower, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and other local landmarks, O’Konowitz said.
If you’re inspired by the gingerbread display, buy a kit and decorate it at the garden. “We clean up the mess for you and help you along the way,” he said.
Kids can do their holiday shopping at the Treetop Shop, then explore Evergreen Adventures to learn about conifers and decorate a tree.
Check out more than two dozen Christmas trees decorated by members of Northeast Ohio garden clubs affiliated with the botanical garden. You’re sure to pick up some tips for your own tree and seasonal home décor.
Stay until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays to see the Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse take on a green glow, and the garden’s grounds twinkle with lights.
“We would love for Glow to become every family’s holiday tradition,” O’Konowitz said.