Serendipity at the MN Landscape Arboretum

Jennifer Shea Hedberg | 11 December, 2019

Leaves frozen into ice from MN Landscape Arboretum ice by The Ice Wrangler WINTERCRAFT ice luminaries flowers

This year I was offered a treat too tasty to pass up. I was allowed by the MN Landscape Arboretum to go into their gardens and "cut floral samples" (except trees!) and freeze them into tall ice luminaries to be displayed at their Winter Lights event! 

First on the agenda was to determine and prepare the location:

Creating the grapevine backdrop for ice installation WINTERCRAFT Ice Wrangler

Volunteers extraordinaire Joy Wagner and Al Schendlinger plus numerous Arb employees helped harvest grapevines from nearby trees and wove a beautiful backdrop to hopefully protect the future ice display from sun and wind.

Volunteers and the Ice Wrangler built grapevine backdrop

While it was arduous work, it was warm and beautiful during a magnificent Minnesota autumn.

Next came the cutting and creating ice:

Making Flower Ice Towers for the MN Landscape Arboretum WINTERCRAFT Ice Wrangler

Making Flower Ice Towers for the MN Landscape Arboretum WINTERCRAFT Ice Wrangler

Then, as the opening date approached, the actual ice throne needed to be constructed but the outdoor temps did not cooperate, so I had to punt. My husband suggested we use the carved wood bench we had in the basement and add ice around it. Brilliant! But how to make it look magical?

Carved Bear bench

This is where the "serendipity" come into play. I was walking near a building site and noticed a worker hauling what looked to be large sheets of waste material to the dumpster. The material was translucent, bendable and big. I was aware that he might think I was nuts, but I asked him if I could have the sheets. He said the dumpster was full of them. So I jumped in and filled my car.

Fiberglass waste material put to good use making magical backdrop for ice installation

I asked Arb Volunteer and woodworker Al Schendlinger to help me stabilize the bench by adding a large box to the back of the bench that would hold the waste material and act as light central for the display. 

Lights central for WINTERCRAFT Ice Wrangler ice installation at the MN Landscape Arboretum

As you can see in the above photo, I built the whole thing in my kitchen with the help of friends Joy Wagner and Dave Schaenzer. They helped me figure out a way to wrap the waste material around glitter-cover branches and rotating LED lights to create what I now call "the plumage" to replace the ice glass I intended to add to the back of an ice bench. 

Lights central for ice installation

Al, Joy and Dave came to my rescue again when it was time to position the bench and the plumage in situ at the Arboretum. 

Workers install the bench

The Ice Wrangler, Dave, Joy and Dave!

Week 1

With temps still high, I decided to install just 2 towers of ice and an extra large globe on the fire pit. Dave and my husband Tom helped lug snow and set up the ice with the bright LED lights. (The two supplied comedic relief as well :)

Dave and Tom helping to set up ice at the arb

I think it turned out better than I imagined! Mostly because it became a true collaborative effort! My thanks to Joy, Al, Dave, Tom and Arb workers for their help!

Week 1 of Ice Wrangler Fire and Ice installation at the MN Landscape Arboretum

For opening night, I'm pleased to report that Winter Lights guests flocked to take their pictures in the resulting magical space.

Kids on ice wrangler bench

Dad with kids week 1 of ice wrangler display at arb

Week 2

This week brought snow and the ability to build another tower into the display.

Week 2 WINTERCRAFT Ice Wrangler display at the arb

Again, guests loved to take photos! 

Sue Seeger captured week 2 with her parents!

Week 3

I will be heading out to the MN Landscape Arboretum to add to or spruce up the display on a weekly basis through the first weekend in January. Please come back as I update this blog.

Enjoy the Glow!

-- Jennifer Shea Hedberg, The Ice Wrangler


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