In this video, Marc Hachadourian, curator of the orchid collection at the New York Botanical Garden, gives an overview of the NYBG 12th annual Orchid Show. The theme was Key West Contemporary, and Marc gives a behind-the-scenes look into how a theme like this comes to life.
The Orchid Show has the usual array of thousands of blooming orchids, but this year’s design is based on a contemporary garden in Key West, Florida. In the past, we’ve worked with many well-known landscape designers—everyone from Patrick Blanc to Raymond Jungles. This year, we chose to work with Raymond Jungles again and to base the show on his signature tropical garden designs that have a contemporary style. We took some of his signature elements such as pools, water features, and the bold use of tropical foliage for color, pattern, and texture as the framework to overlay with thousands of blooming orchids.
One of the biggest mysteries is how we do it—the secrets behind the “smoke and mirrors” of the Orchid Show. The planning for the show starts years in advance, during which we’re working on ideas for designs, the layout, and structures that we will build to frame all the beautiful orchids in and around.
From there, we begin working with our horticultural team in the conservatory and in the Nolen Glasshouses to time the orchids to bloom at just the right time. It requires manipulation of light, water, temperature, and fertilizer, while understanding what each group of orchids needs in order to speed up or slow down the blooming process. By bringing in some of the orchids from specialist nurseries all over the United States as well as specimens from our year-round collection, we are able to get a beautiful diversity of plants for the Orchid Show.
Once we have all of those orchids ready to go, the installation can take up to two weeks to complete. The show gallery, where we have the main body of the Orchid Show, is a blank slate with nothing but a few permanent trees when we begin. We have to transform that space into a contemporary, tropical garden. The space becomes almost unrecognizable as the conservatory, hiding every element of the structure and giving viewers the impression that they’ve traveled out of New York and into somewhere exotic.