The Orchid Show: Key West Contemporary at NYBG, Spring 2014

If you are planning a trip to New York, the great east coast city in the U.S.A this spring, whether you are travelling from another American state, from down under, or other hubs around the world do yourself a favour and take a day out of your busy life and visit the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) Orchid Show.

Life should always be about special experiences and this most popular annual show at the NYBG, where orchids make striking statements, always promises to be one.

Thousands of vibrant orchids in fuchsia, chartreuse, and vivid purple will be part of the display in a stunning event that will include live music, curated poetry walk, exclusive cocktail orchid evenings, and plenty of activities to wipe away the NY winter blues.

Each year this amazing show is curated to a theme and this year ‘The Garden Island of Key West’ in Florida. It comes to the New York Botanical Garden from March 1 to April 21.

Raymond Jungles amid the display at the NYGB detail photo by Katie Orlinsky for The New York Times

Bringing the culture of Florida Keys to New York City the display will be taking its cues from a modernist Key West estate garden.

It was inspired by a design by the award-winning landscape architect Raymond Jungles, in a garden he created for Susan Henshaw Jones, President of the Museum of the City of New York, and Judge Richard K. Eaton.

He has designed the display as a tribute to the work of Roberto Burle Marx, the late Brazilian artist, plant collector and landscape gardener whose bold sense of color and form and ebullient use of tropical flora have long inspired Mr. Jungles.

The idea is for visitors to immerse themselves in an effusion of orchids blooming among still, geometric reflecting pools, soaring angular pergolas, and sleek benches.

Jungles and his team have worked with Francisca Coelho senior curator for glass houses at the gardens and her team, to bring Mr Jungles vision to life.

Workers setting up the exhibit - photo Katie Orlinsky courtesy The New York Times

They have transformed the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory’s sprawling glasshouse galleries into a stunning ‘Brazilian style’ modernist reality – bold, and ‘in your face’.

There are Cubist-inspired vertical planters billowing with silvery bromeliads; chandelier-like baskets of green philodendrons dripping with fuchsia and purple orchids.

There is a free-standing wall covered with 800 white phalaenopsis, or moth orchids plus, a single 35 year old staghorn fern that’s the size of a condor.

Todd Forrest, vice president of horticulture and living collections at the botanical garden said ‘We chose Brazil, because it’s where our scientists have done so much of their work in preserving biodiversity. And it has such a vibrant culture, so full of energy and life, just as New York is.” he said.

For orchid mad New Yorkers it doesn’t matter if you have an apartment large or small, you can always nurture an orchid somewhere.

They are wonderfully fragrant blooms and come in every size, shape, species and texture, as well as in full glorious technicolour.

Orchids are celebrated and appreciated far and wide as symbols of friendship and refinement so fans of this fabulous flower both local and international must register early for tickets, so you will need to be quick.

At this stunning show you can take orchid classes and learn how to care for your favourite plant through secrets shared with gardening and orchid experts who demystify orchid care and put everyone on the road to success.

Like people not all orchids are prima donnas, difficult and demanding some are calm, cool and collected and can be grown without much fuss.

So much to do, so little time - Photo: Katie Orlinsky courtesy The New York Times

The orchids, palm trees and other tropical plants in the exhibit have been carefully arranged — either massed together, or set apart like treasured objects.

Watch the Video – Behind the Scenes

A Tillandsia dyeriana orchid from Ecuador; right, a "yellow cat" orchid photo: Katie Orlinsky courtesy New York Times

The number of orchid species in the world is about twice the number of birds and four times more than mammals.

Orchids were an integral aspect of Chinese culture for centuries. Chinese gardeners attempted to recreate nature’s poetic wonders and create a garden whose composition was designed to ‘bring out the rhythm of nature’.

They were also an outward expression of a man’s inner strength, which in itself is highly contradictory, because to be at one with the ebb and flow of the natural order of things means being in a state of constant flux and contradiction.

So to go forward, you must step back, to gain you have to let go, and to win you must lose.

It’s an introspective philosophy, one that had a ‘belief in, and reliance on, human intuition’.

A purple dendrobium; right, a doritaenopsis orchid photo Katie Orlinsky courtesy New York Times

It is an expression of Ying and Yang, the two opposing forces at the heart of Chinese philosophy, where the rough and masculine yang is balanced by the soft and feminine, ying.

From the 17th to the 19th century an explosion of interest in these amazing blooms throughout Europe and in the Americas meant they were transported all around the world via the Dutch and British East India Companies.

Since the early 19th century gardeners have produced more than 100,000 and cultivars, so to know orchids, means having to amass a great deal of knowledge.

The word Orchid was introduced in 1845 by John Lindley from Orchidaceae, which comes from the Greek, literally meaning testicle because of the shape of the orchid’s root and for that reason they became associated with sensual pleasure.

Orchidaceae is one of the two largest families of flower plants.

There are so many stunning varieties of orchids its often hard to know where to start. Everyone has their own particular favourite.

Louis Majorelle Orchid Desk

Orchids became one of the favourite themes of the Art Nouveau style in the late 19th early 20th century, French artist, designer and cabinetmaker Louis Majorelle 1859-1926, made furniture that was richly ornamented and his orchid desk of 1905 is an outstanding piece.

Jewellery designers produced amazing pieces epitomizing this new movement’s fascination with nature, sensuality, the exotic and the erotic. René Lalique (1860-1945) produced sensational pieces, including this stunning Orchid comb made from ivory, gold, “plique-á-jour” enamel, horn and diamonds.

At the 1901 exhibition of the Paris Salon Lalique also included jewellery made of crystal glass, the first move toward a new artistic creative material. Lalique’s style united poetry, music and the philosophy of life.

Art Nouveau gold, diamond and enamel masterpiece by René Lalique

Like everyone else he became caught up in an arabesque of literature, poetry, music and art for which the orchid was a symbol of fertility.

All around the world the orchid today is a much admired and cultivated species.

In Australia the sheer range of native orchids is huge and our small southern island state of Tasmania alone has some 210 species.

At the NYBG throughout the year orchids, the seductive stars of the tropical plant world either slumber silently or make a loud noise when they put on a spectacular show.

Rare orchids grow as they would in nature, nurtured in the Edith A Haupt Conservatory’s rain forest gallery just waiting for their chance to put on a spectacular show each March.

The New York Botanical Garden is a very special place. It still contains remnants of the forest that was felled to create New York. It conducts vast global scientific research programs and scientists use cutting-edge techniques to discover and understand the properties of plants and their relationships to each other, to ecosystems, and to people.

With 50 gardens and more than one million living plants, including 30,000 mature trees, on its 250-acre landscape, the New York Botanical Garden collections include the most beautiful rose garden in the United States. Sensational tropical and desert plants are displayed in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, where three public exhibitions are presented each year.

From ‘pinhead’ miniatures to giant specimens, orchids are always an important aspect of any luxuriant tropical landscape and this year in a contemporary setting based on a design established in a tropical locale, the orchids will be sure to shine.

The Orchid Show is coming

New York Botanical Garden

March 1 to April 21





Founding Sponsor:
The Tiffany & Co Foundation

Major Sponsors:
Mr. and Mrs. Charles M. Royce

Generous support also provided by the
Karen Katen Foundation

Additional support provided by the
Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust

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