Lunar New Year at Bellagio Las Vegas
One of the most highly anticipated seasonal displays each holiday is the festive installation at the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. With several fantastic floral exhibits throughout the year, the designers never create the exact same set-up twice. While every display is stunning, a visitor favorite each year is the Lunar New Year display that depicts the year’s Chinese Zodiac as a highlight of the year’s floral design. We talked with Conservatory Designer Ed Libby about this year’s "Eye of the Tiger" installation that debuted this week.
The "Eye of the Tiger" Display at Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
WT: How is this year’s display different from those of other Lunar New Year arrangements?
Libby: So we took a much more artful approach to this year’s display, and we also made sure the beds were landscaped in a completely different way. So this year’s landscape is very traditional Asian landscaping according to landscape architecture. In the past, the beds have often been drift-planted where there’s an enormous mass of one color. This year it’s much more of a couture landscaping, which is fun. We also have lots and lots of stories that we’re going to be telling throughout the beds, so it’s not just a floral bed with happy children.
The story of the knick-knack peddler is very popular in not only Asian culture but in Asian art. Every fine art museum across Asia has a painting that depicts their interpretation of the knick-knack salesman. So the story is that this peddler is a retired scholar who teaches the children about commerce and the value of money and how to spend it properly. So you’ll see that some of the children have toys and others have fishing poles. You can give a man a fish, and he eats for a day; you can give a man a fishing rod, and he can feed himself for life. One of the little girls back there has firecrackers in her hand, and that’s a bad purchase because once they blow up, they’re done.
WT: Can you tell us about the tiger?
Libby: The tiger, our symbol for this new year, is about bravery, grace, persistence, and perseverance. This is obviously very important, especially in these times. He’s guarded by Fu dogs—the tiger is looking out at our guests and wishing them good fortune, and the Fu dogs guard the tiger while he does that. The money tree represents good fortune, and there’s a waterfall beneath the money tree, which symbolizes free-flowing fortune from the money tree to the guests. Tangerines in Asian culture also represent money, so there are lots of different kinds of money and good fortune flowing towards the guests.
WT: What are the unique aspects of the different floral beds?
Libby: The lotuses in the East Bed are in a very specific pond that’s been done according to feng shui—the water is constantly moving. The space in here is constantly being cleansed and recirculated. Lotuses grow from the mud, which is the nastiest thing on earth, but lotuses are one of the most beautiful flowers. So out of ugliness comes great beauty.
In the North Bed, we have a replica of a traditional tea house. The tea house and the tea ceremony represent discipline and hospitality. In the same bed, we have a very hard bench and on that bench is the book of knowledge. The symbolism here is that when you study knowledge and tradition, you need to be paying attention, so it’s not a cushy area. Also, in the north bed, we have the peonies, which are known to be the king of the floral world and good luck.
WT: What’s your favorite part of the display?
Libby: The tiger is made out of 8000 pounds of bronze, and a really incredible artist sculpted him in Brooklyn—it made a long journey from Brooklyn to the Bellagio. We auditioned and interviewed other more local artists and felt that this gentleman was the best choice. I didn’t want to design a tiger that would be like anything we could see at any other property, so we basically designed the tiger, and it’s essentially only the stripes. The entire piece is all bronze, and we polished the stripes with an orbital sanding machine so you can see the stripes are actually striped as well. At night, it’s almost like a jewelry finish; it’s just incredible.
The president of the hotel was down here and told me what an affection she had for the knick-knack peddler and the story. For some reason, that became much more near and dear to my heart than it was before. It seems like everybody who comes through has their own very special attachment to one bed or another.
I think that each bed tells an incredible story, and that’s nothing new, but I think that maybe we did it this time in a way that’s going to be a little bit more in-depth; people are going to want to take a deeper dive but in a very happy way.