The Orchid Show: Key West Contemporary is The New York Botanical Garden’s 12th annual exhibition of orchids. The dramatic beauty of a flourishing tropical garden combines with vibrant architecture to bring Key West’s charm and ambience to New York. The exhibition displays a mosaic of thousands of exotic orchids in the Botanical Garden’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory in addition to offering a plethora of orchid and Key West-related programming.
The garden evoked in The Orchid Show: Key West Contemporary is inspired by a garden originally designed for Susan Henshaw Jones, President of the Museum of the City of New York, and Judge Richard K. Eaton. Landscape architect Raymond Jungles won a Residential Design Award of Honor from the American Society of Landscape Architects for the Jones and Eaton garden in 2005. Francisca Coelho, the Garden’s Vivian and Edward Merrin Vice President for Glasshouses and Exhibitions, is reimagining Jungles’s design for this year’s Orchid Show.
The exhibition is on view in the Conservatory’s Victorian-style glasshouse and includes a magnificent walk through A World of Plants, the Conservatory’s permanent exhibition. Orchids will be highlighted throughout the Palms of the World Gallery, Tropical Rain Forest Galleries, and the Aquatic Plants and Vines Gallery.
In the Seasonal Exhibition Galleries, the centerpiece of The Orchid Show: Key West Contemporary features a re-creation of the Jones and Eaton Garden, with a green garden wall and a fountain flowing into a pool with stepping stones. At every angle, soaring angular pergolas and trellises will be enveloped by thousands of brightly colored orchids, including Vanda (rainbow orchids), Dendrobium (cane orchids), and Cymbidium (Asian corsage orchids). The modern angular architectural lines of the garden will lead the visitor to lush displays of flowers, palms, and other plants, including the everglades palm, Bismarck palm, area palm, bottlebrush, variegated mahoe, buttonwood, gumbo limbo, spineless century plant, and Christmas palm. Ferns and bromeliads comprise the beautiful understory of the exhibition.
Sleek geometric details of fountain walls, landing pads, a water garden, and benches blend with the natural look of plants and flowers. The gentle, lulling sound of the fountain adds to the relaxing environment. The pool garden at the lanai contributes a contemporary, modernist touch.
Through exhibition interpretation, The Orchid Show will also explain orchid diversity, “What Makes an Orchid an Orchid”, the history and conservation stories of rare and endangered orchids in the rain forests of the world, and information about Commodore Matthew Perry and the opening of Key West.
With more than 30,000 naturally occurring species, orchids are the largest family of flowering plants. Orchids are adaptable, diverse, and grow in almost every habitat—from semi-desert to Arctic tundra—on every continent except Antarctica. They come in a dazzling range of sizes, from miniatures with tiny flowers less than 1/16 of an inch in diameter to giants more than 25 feet tall with flower spikes up to 10 feet long.
Orchids also come in an amazing array of colors and shapes. Some mimic bees, wasps, butterflies, and moths; others have unusual buckets, traps, and trigger mechanisms. These adaptations help ensure that insect pollinators visit the flowers. Because orchid flowers have specialized reproductive parts and their pollen is a single mass, individual grains of pollen cannot disperse as with other flowers. As a result, each orchid flower has only one chance to transfer pollen to another flower.
There are more than 6,000 orchids representing 2,273 taxa (different types) in the Garden’s permanent collection. The New York Botanical Garden has orchids from all of the floristic regions of the world, including Australia, Africa, South America, and Madagascar. Because the Garden is committed to orchid research and conservation, its scientists study the botany and ecology of orchids; what they discover is useful to conservation work that will ensure the future of these extraordinary plants in nature.
The Garden’s resident orchid expert is Marc Hachadourian, Manager of the Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections. With more than 15 years of commercial and specialized horticultural experience, he supervises the care of the botanical collections, including the extensive orchid collection and exhibition plants in the Nolen Greenhouses.
Francisca Coelho graduated from the Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture and began her career at the Garden 30 years ago, rising through the ranks to her current position of Vivian and Edward Merrin Vice President for Glasshouses and Exhibitions. Tropical plants and aquatics are her areas of horticultural expertise.
Coelho was deeply involved in the restoration of the Conservatory from 1993 to 1997 and continues to take the lead in the restoration and preservation of this landmark structure and the development and display of its Living Collections. She leads Conservatory exhibition-related planning and implementation for the Garden and is known for her plantsmanship and design skills in developing, planting, and maintaining the permanent plant galleries and the high-style seasonal shows.
These diverse, blockbuster horticultural exhibitions transform the Seasonal Exhibition Galleries of the Conservatory with themes as wide-ranging as the orchid gardens and habitats of Singapore, Brazil, and Cuba, and last year’s Wild Medicine exhibition, which reimagined the Western world’s oldest botanical garden in Padua, Italy.