A few days ago I landed in Salt Lake City and noticed an abundance of holiday decor. Most notably, there were a bunch of large poinsettia arrangements throughout the terminals in the shape of Christmas trees:

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As it turns out, the airport grows these plants itself in the airport greenhouse.

Airport spokeswoman Bianca Shreeve told TOTW in an email that the airport’s maintenance staff runs the greenhouse, which was built in 1995 and includes 3,000 square feet  of growing space. Shreeve sent the images below, which show this process (Click to enlarge all the following images).

The greenhouse is located near the FAA control tower, and last year produced 1,600 poinsettias. According to Shreeve, the seedlings for the plants arrive in August and are set out in the airport during the week of Thanksgiving. From that point on, a three person crew works seven days a week maintaining them. 

The images below, courtesy Salt Lake International, show the crew that grows and maintains the plants.

A Delta worker that I talked to in terminal, and who spends a lot of time near these arrangements, has witnessed that process and said that whenever a plant starts looking stressed they are replaced.

The airport greenhouse isn’t just used for growing holiday plants. Shreeve said it also grows landscaping, and in the 90s helped the airport transition from lawn to drought-tolerant plants.

Like much of the built environment, airports as places are easy to take for granted; if they work properly, we move smoothly through them without much thought, and if we get slowed down it’s usually because there was a failure somewhere.

But discovering that Salt Lake International has its own greenhouse, and learning about its holiday plant program, pulls back the curtain slightly on the whole process. It provides a chance to stop and consider how much effort goes into making a space that is not only utilitarian, but is also visually cohesive. In other words, the people running the airport aren’t just interested in getting people from point A to point B, they’re interested in how that process looks, smells, and feels. They’re interested, in other words, in the symbolism as well as the function.

And in this case, that happens to mean an airport that is perhaps the most festive I can recall seeing.

— Jim Dalrymple II

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Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Editor in Chief of Tripping Over the World. Also, reporter at BuzzFeed News.

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