NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – The annual Holiday LIGHTS display has launched at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens.
The event brings thousands of people every year to marvel at the mile of lights celebrating the holiday season.
The event is only possible with the help of dozens of people who work tirelessly to maintain the grounds and change the landscape each season.
“The design changes every year, so the colors are always different, the plantings are always a little different,” explained Julie Gardner, a 20-year veteran gardener at Cheekwood.
Gardner works primarily in the Carrell Dogwood Garden and the Herb Study Garden, but during the holiday season, everyone pitches in.
"In the winter we used to have a lot more time, now it’s more [scheduled],” said Gardner.
For the last two years, the crew has set up a poinsettia tree standing 20 feet tall. It’s built with a wire-type scaffolding in the shape of a Christmas tree, filled with 980 poinsettias.
Gardner climbs the ladder to place each of the red and yellow plants, which is complicated by the elaborate irrigation system built-in.
“You have to put an irrigation emitter in each plant,” says Gardner.
As beautiful as the tree is, it will all be taken down and re-installed with new plants in two weeks.
“You know, instead of trying to make it last for 4 weeks, it's just much easier if you just take the whole thing down so it always looks nice," said Gardner.
Gardner is a Knoxville native who graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in business. During the summer of her senior year, Gardner took a job working in the gardens of a historic home in Knoxville.
“I was hooked,” recalled Gardner.
She began working as a computer programmer after college but said she longed to be outside working in the dirt.
“[Gardening] is much better than working in cubicle land,” said Gardner. “Every day you see something you’ve accomplished.”