Saturday, February 28, 2015

Look Up - Living Chandeliers Dazzle & Bejewel The New York Botanical Garden’s Orchid Show Opens February 28th

There is no getting away from it – the juxtaposition of two worlds colliding makes a special magic.  And so it was at the New York Botanical Garden’s Thursday press preview for the spectacular 2015 Orchid Show.  Snowflakes pirouetted outside – just beyond the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory’s windows. 
Inside the tropical, exotic, mysterious world of plants smiled their hothouse.

It is the 13th annual NYBG Orchids Show – and this is the Super Bowl of plant exhibitions.  It is easy to see why this show is a much-anticipated favorite  -- Attendance is expected to top the 150,000 visitors who came last year. Orchids are eye candy. Their brilliant colors are better than opening your own box of new Crayola’s.  
Plus orchids seem to beckon us in ways that are unlike other plants.  Perhaps its because orchids seem to have faces – their eyes and smiles seductively peering at the legions of admirers. 

This year’s Orchid Show theme is Living Chandeliers. It’s a brilliant choice of design inspiration.  

Made all the more so by the fact that this year’s show is curated not by an outside designer but for the first time by none other than the Garden’s very own Fran Coelho, Vice President for Glasshouses and Exhibitions.  
Fran Coelho, Living Chandelier Designer & NYBG VP

A graduate from the Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture, Coelho “was deeply involved in the major restoration” of the landmarked Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and its Living Collections.  
Fran Coelho & her Living Chandelier orchid design 

Why‘d they wait so long? 
Fran’s intimate relationship with the glasshouses reveals her unprecedented talent of the “greenhouse-as-palette.”  Her ability to create such a unique atmosphere in the crystal palace will make fine art curators pea-green with envy.  She knows where the light peeks in here or where the shadows cast a bit of drama there.   These subtle, garden art design elements all add up to a magical rare experience.

Entering the Haupt Conservatory is like stepping through the Alice in Wonderland looking glass.  The black pool of water is high drama in any show or display – but seeing the orchid orbs floating in the glistening, black pool of water beneath the 90-foot soaring cathedral-like ceiling, attended by soaring palm trees, is stunning. 

Talk about a Pinterest/Facebook/Instagram/Twitter moment! 
Free up the Cloud; bring a camera or two– you’ll want to share these images on all your social media “plantforms” – er platforms.
Utter “Eye Candy” hedonism. The world slips away and you are in a suspended state of awe.
You will have to tear yourself away.

But then, the doors to the main show open up like a portal to a Technicolor Never, Never Land.  You can’t help but blink back in astonishment and feel a heart-stopping moment.   What glamour.  What romance…
This is better than the any walk on a “Yellow Brick Road!” 
The plant compositions here on either side of the walk are studded with a variety of tropical companions including bromeliads, ferns, colecasia, palms, and ficus.

On each side are artful, hanging garden pendants, dripping with jewel-like, sexy orchids that wink at you with that come-hither look.  The Living Chandeliers here are suspended over pools of water, reflecting their glamorous beauty in a mirror image that even Dorian Gray would be jealous of.

You can’t help but notice there are orchids – everywhere!  Like stars in the heavens, there are exuberant displays of Phalaenopsis, Cattleya, Cymbidium, Oncidium and Epiphytes.
Yes, you are reminded to “Look Up” to capture the flower constellations.  And be sure to “Look In” – up inside the chandeliers.  It’s seeing plants from an entirely new, intimate, and exciting perspective.   
View Looking Up inside the Chandelier

At the same time, the Orchids have been accessorized with the tropical plants that provide form, structure, frilly greens, languid Spanish Moss, and regal tropicals.    

One of my favorite looks were the “Tree Warmers.”  This was my on-the-spot moniker for the small Moth Orchids: Phalaenopsis hybrids and Dendrobiums that Fran and her team have artfully wrapped on the Ficus trees standing happy sentinels on either side of the long axis walkway leading to the center, 45 -foot dome of the Conservatory.
Before I get to this show-stopper of the Living Chandeliers, I have to share the wonderful story Fran told me about those ficus.  They once belong to Enid Haupt – and she sent them along to the Botanical Garden with her collections.

While it’s true that every great garden tells a story; it’s also seems it’s true that every great seasonal exhibition has a backstory. 
Fran shared how the Living Chandeliers theme came about. 
While on a plant trip to Florida with NYBG’s president, Gregory Long, he noted the hanging Staghorn Ferns; Fran observed epiphyte hanging baskets nearby and it got her to thinking … Epiphytes grow on trees – many orchids are canopy-dwelling - so there’s that vertical look – and just like that – a show-stopping star design was conceived. 
Visitors can look up – to enjoy the orchid art from an entirely new perspective.

“The space for the show is the same every year, but we look to make the conceptualization of the display different each year,” Fran explained.  And speaking of space – this year’s Orchid Show was designed so that there is more open areas, allowing for better vistas – and accommodations for the robust visitors who come from all over the world to view this stunning orchid display.
I especially liked the diminutive bromeliads that adorn the moldings on both sides of the dome-area’s gateway.  Inspired garden glamour for home design, too. 
The plants are mounted and then attached with wire; covered with Spanish Moss.  Green moss would work too.

Fran noted it takes a about a year to bring the show from concept to putting the plants in place for the Orchid Show.  Which was what was happening Thursday as the press preview was trying to take it all in.

So back to that genormously huge central Chandelier in the center of the show.  In true “Hort-Art” fashion, I can’t take my eyes off this glamorous globe. 
I dream it could be a floral fairy from the planet Avatar where plants rule.
The Living Chandelier here is framed on the ground by two crescent pools on either side where the mirrored chandelier images radiate the orchids’ beauty. 
The water element is like breaking the third wall of a design dimension. 
The lighting effect that Fran so skillfully employs is yet another design dimension.

The size of this garden pendant is unprecedented: it’s three tiers – the top tier is 11 feet around  -- “And with the orchid flowers reaching out – it’s really more like 15 feet wide,“ noted Coelho.  The middle tier is nine feet and the bottom tier is seven feet around.

How did she come up with the royal chandelier color and design, I asked Fran.  And how did she choose the more than 500 white, yellow and puffs of pink/purple Phalaenopsis and Oncidiums, accessorized with lush ferns and moss that adorn the Living Chandelier? 
In a curious twist (no pun intended) Fran tells me she was inspired by the show graphic she produced for the marketing and advertising campaign.
She took me to see the poster and pointed out how she arranged the hanging basket for Dana Meilijson to photograph. 
When I pointed out that the graphic usually follows the real-life art, she smiled.  After all, she created both the hanging basket ready for its close-up and the Living Chandelier now ready for its starring role.
Fran finds the yellow, white and pinkish orchids in the chandelier, “Calming.”

There are more than 100 chandeliers, orbs, and hanging baskets, featured in the show! 
I asked Fran how many orchids are in the show.  “Approximately 4,500 and with the 2,500 orchids that will be used to replenish and refresh the show orchids, the total will be about 7,000 orchids by the time the show ends,” (April 17th)

Where do all the orchids come from?  I couldn’t help but think the NYBG Orchid Show must be a bonanza for orchid growers across the country.  Indeed.  According to Fran, while the Garden has a world-class orchid collection – managed and supervised by the Garden’s “resident orchid expert, Marc Hachadourian, Director of the Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collection, most of the orchids originate in California, Hawaii, and Florida. 
Hachadourian is the go-to orchid expert for garden notables across the country, including Martha Stewart who frequently hosts Marc on her television show and in her print media. 
At the show’s conclusion, some of the orchids will be selected to help build the Garden’s Collection.  Other orchids are donated to area hospitals, schools, and nursing homes.  How lucky are they?

Hachadourian noted, “Orchids are a charismatic group of plants – they draw visitors.” Almost like no other plant, I will add.  It’s that “eye candy” allure.  
He says that for the Garden this is an ideal “teaching moment” to demonstrate the Garden’s mission of Research, Education, and Display   “Here we can help teach the appreciation of beauty – visitors will not only see the diversity of the orchid world but also learn about the companion plants featured in the displays,” he said pointing out the red-hot bromeliads, for example.
The Garden has strategically placed Orchid Care signage throughout the show’s display too – in order to help us visitors understand about the living plant art.
I asked about the Darwin Orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale) - he told me they will bring out this very rare specimen for the show.  Don’t miss this conversation piece and star of its own horticultural historical adventure tale.
Marc added that Fran’s design for the Living Chandelier show this year demonstrates her perspective, her amazing eye for color -- and her passion. 

How will the gorgeous plants keep their “cover girl” looks?  Fran explained they water the plants very carefully! “It’s a challenge,” she said.  “Each plant may be in a different planting medium, different sized pot, with differing watering needs.”  This year there lots and lots of miniature orchids too (Good things come in small packages.)
For the giant Living Chandeliers, the Garden staff mounts a 10-foot ladder and a sprinkler with a special nozzle to get the precious water to the orchids’ roots.

Orchids are Romantic

Do not miss this show.  Go for the gorgeous, inspired orchid garden display designs. 
For the first time, the show runs throughout the Conservatory – so there’s more to see – plus walking through the show adds that jolt of oxygen we all need - especially in this “frozen” winter of extreme cold.  
The Living Chandelier Orchid Show is for everyone.  Kids will love it too.

And it’s so romantic – Orchid Evenings are perfect for a special date. Swoon with your lover(s) amid the magic and mystery of the Conservatory, stir in a few cocktails “inspired by Guerlain’s Orchidée Impériele line” -- or Champagne on select nights -- sprinkle in the sounds of live music, and even the orchids will be dancing and whispering sweet love songs for you and your sweetie.

There’s a smart-phone tour for the show, along with a companion guide you can use while shopping to learn more about orchid care.   The Shop in the Garden offers a variety of rare and easy-to-grow orchids.

Before you go:
Try to purchase your tickets ahead of time.  The show is understandably well attended so waiting in line shouldn’t be part of the plan. 
You can become a member and dispense with waiting on line! 
Here to all things Living Chandeliers Orchid Show 2015 – from transportation to hours to about.

A Few Facts about Orchids from NYBG:

Orchids represent the height of evolutionary success in the plant kingdom. With more than 30,000 naturally occurring species, they 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.  They are the entertainers and performers of the plant world.