Garden Diary - March 2012

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Friday, 2 March 2012
Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden

It's that time of year again. What time? you ask, thinking perhaps of returning robins, snowdrops in flower, garden catalogues stuffed in your mailbox. Why, it's time for the orchid show at the New York Botanical Garden. Originally designed by garden staff, now the exhibits are orchestrated by outside designers: Broadway stage designers, a landscape architect born in Cuba. This year, 10th in the series, the designer is Patrick Blanc, a French botanist renown for his innovative green walls. While the orchid show is a temporary installation, the concepts are the same. Patrick has created sweeps and swirls, drifts of foliage shapes and colors on several huge panels that have then been embellished with drifts of orchids.

The palm court house has a beautiful pool of black water, the eye of
exhibitions. This time there are sweeps of tropical plants including
gorgeous elephant ears with near-to-black arrow shaped leaves,
their glossy surfaces neatly marked, pencilled with silvery veining.
And, but of course, orchids - white, pink, golden, green, speckled.


A wall of white orchids flanks the stone walk of the seasonal exhibition wing.

Today is not merely the press preview. It is also Member's Day. This means that membership in the
New York Botanical Gardens gets you in to see the show the day before it opens to the general public.
And the members are taking full advantage of the privilege. I think there are more people here than
there would be once the show opens. And they all seem to have a camera. If not a camera, a cell phone.


Marc Hachadourian, manager of the nearly acre-size Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections
looks over the displays. Think he looks tired? The installation's last touches came just a few minutes
after the scheduled 10:00 a.m. opening (and if I heard it was an all-nighter that's no surprise.)

Magnificent orchids at every turn, such as this Cymbidium Lovely Moon 'Crescent', each amber-gold
flower with a mellow lipstick red band on it labellum (supposedly to attract pollinators.) Attracted me.

I don't know what this is. Until I find out, let's just call it a Pink Whatsit.
Love the form, its size and let's not forget the color, soft blushing rose pink.

UPDATE: This is, drumroll please, Medinilla magnifica, and there's a nice little article about it here on the New York Botanical Garden's plant talk blog.

Orchids are, we must not forget, the most diverse of flowers with funky forms and fabulous color.

Phalanopsis, with disc-like flowers, each reminiscent of the full moon.

Another phalenopsis, nestled amid ferns and bedewed with water droplets.

Paphilopedilum, lady slipper orchid. Similar in shape
to the hardy cypripedium all I can say is that the lady
must have had rather large feet. Cyprian foam bourne,
they are exquisite, with a glistening enamel-like finish.

Green, a waterfall of maidenhair fern. Pilea, familiar as a terrarium plant.
And dancing over all - orchids, the focal point and epitome of this exhibition.

Miltonias in several shades of rose and pink cavort with airy sprays of a smaller flowered orchid.

Patrick Blanc, arrived late last night from Paris,
casts an approving eye over the exhibition. Jetlag
vanished in face of the show's energizing appeal.

Episcia, with its chocolate bordered silver leaves provides a foil for dendrobium flowers. Maidenhair fern
becomes a dainty accent. Below, phalanopsis pairs beautifully with rex begonia vine, Cissus discolor

Foliage is, absolutely, the foundation of Patrick's work and an aspect of plants
that I also admire. In designing gardens one should, after all, consider the leaf.

The Orchid Show: Patrick Blanc's Vertical Gardens is open from March 3rd through April 22nd. The hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Closed most Mondays but open April 19. Here is a link to the New York Botanical Garden's description and ticket ordering site.

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