Atlanta’s Magical Wonderland

There’s something magical in the woods of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, and it’s only if you enter the world of Alice’s Wonderland! Running through the end of October, the exhibit gives visitors a look into the whimsical, fairytale world that holds the imagination of kids and adults alike. When Emily Saccenti, Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Exhibition Manager, found out Alice would be making a prolonged stop, she knew her two kids would jump at the opportunity to these flowery sculptures up close. Her career has led up to many moments like these where ABG’s exhibits are more than just a revenue booster, but a moment to make memories with family and friends. We caught up with Saccenti in the midst of this mystical journey through the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.


Tell us the inspiration behind Alice’s Wonderland and why you decided to bring this to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens?  

“We have been collaborating with Mosaiculture Internationales de Montreal for several years, originally for shows in 2013 and 2014. When we partnered again to plan for the 2018 and 2019 shows we really wanted to delve deeper into fairy tales. And from this came Alice’s Wonderland.”


How long did it take to create from start to finish? 

“We started discussing the 2018 exhibition in early 2017. The design and structural planning began in the spring of that year with the fabrication of the steel frames in late 2017. We received our first shipment of sculpture frames very early in 2018 and got right to work wrapping the structures in fabric, filling them with soil, and planting them. Installation took place in April with the show opening in May. For this year’s iteration, we received the Alice sculptures in January and got to work planting and replanting last year’s sculptures in advance of this year’s early May opening.”


What characters from Alice’s Wonderland can visitors see when they come to the gardens? 

“In addition to our fairy tale Dragon, Pegasus, Mermaid, and Phoenix the exhibition features the mischievous Cheshire Cat keeping watch over a sleeping Alice, a chess set made up of 17 individual sculptures such as the famous card soldiers, but the most impressive character is our nearly 30 foot tall White Rabbit floating in an upside-down umbrella inside the aquatic pond in our Skyline Garden.”


How many flowers were used in creating all of the displays? What other materials and their quantities were used as well? 

“We used over 110,000 individual plants (38 varieties of plant, mainly annuals) on the sculptures this year. We also used over 12,000 square feet of fabric and lots and lots of soil. Too much to measure!”


The Atlanta Botanical Gardens are already magical in a way. What do you think Alice’s “Wonderland has done for the gardens since the exhibit was installed?

I think the show has allowed us to highlight our mission to an audience that was just coming to see some cool art! It is our most popular exhibition to date boasting higher attendance than our 2016 blockbuster Chihuly in the Garden!”


Tell us what kind of teamwork it takes to make something like Alice’s Wonderland happen.

“The Atlanta Botanical Garden has a strong tradition of presenting amazing sculptural art to our audience but Alice’s Wonderland and our previous Mosaiculture exhibitions are special because they are such an incredible combination of beauty, art, and plants! I had the pleasure to work extremely closely with the garden’s horticulture staff in the planning, execution, and maintenance of this show. We have a full-time team of 5 horticulturists dedicated solely to the care and maintenance of the sculptures which require daily watering, trimming, and replanting.”


What was your role in making this exhibit a reality? 

“My role as Exhibitions Manager is to keep the entire process moving, on time, and on budget. I make sure everyone has all the information they need to be able to do their jobs. I also handle all of the logistical aspects such as transportation, installation, and budget.”


What excites you the most about having an exhibit like Alice’s Wonderland at the ABG?

“I just love this show so much because it truly offers something for everyone. Whether you love plants, art, fairy tales, or all of the above, you are guaranteed to enjoy your experience.”


Any interesting facts that our readers should know to help them enjoy this exhibit more?

“Fun fact: It took 750 hours to wrap, stuff, and plant just the Dragon alone!”