Yesterday was the annual Press Preview for The New York Botanical Garden’s (NYBG) premiere exhibit, the Orchid Show. Orchids are the “eye candy” of the plant world and I’d be hard-pressed to name a single soul that doesn’t find them completely irresistible.
Their dazzling colors, shapes, “faces,” fragrance, mystery, and sheer beauty have captivated cultures around the world, as well as plant explorers, writers, fine artists -- painters and photographers and jewelry makers - - and of course, visitors to this annual blockbuster.
We just can’t get enough of orchids.
I for one, just recently trekked up to the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest (from where I was working at Hacienda Cusin in San Pablo, near Otavalo) where there are more orchids than anywhere due to the country’s biological diversity. This Andean paradise boasts more than 30,000 wild orchids so far identified -- almost 25% percent of Ecuador’s flora. I’ll provide a complete cloud forest and orchid discovery posting about that soon.
Closer to home, the annual Orchid Show at NYBG has gained a much-deserved reputation for strutting the orchid’s glamorous good looks as well as teaching us about the orchid plant’s diversity and cultural significance to a number of countries, including last year’s inspiring Thailand-themed exhibit or previously, the dazzling and “uplifting” chandelier installations that compelled you to look up in 2015 or the take-your-breath away beauty of the 2013 show .
This year, it was quite evident how much professional respect and love and mutual admiration there is between the NYBG Horticultural staff and the revered Daniel Ost and his team.
Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections & Daniel Ost at press preview
Scores of the press in attendance were swooning over Ost and past features they’ve been honored to write.
I saw that my botanical artist friend, Ellen Hovercamp (I own three of her fabulous pieces, featured in our bedroom; Ellen collaborates with horticultural expert, designer, and author, Ken Druse, most notably in the book, Natural Companions ) had retrieved Ost’s book Floral Art and The Beauty of Impermanence - a stunning compilation of the artist’s unparalleled floral designs.
|Botanical Artist Ellen Hovercamp with her Daniel Ost book ready for autograph|
No less CBS has described him as "the world's leading flower designer," while the New York Times says that "to call him a master flower designer is akin to calling Annie Leibovitz a shutterbug.”
NYBG notes “Ost is celebrated worldwide for his eye-catching installations in private and public spaces, working with both living and cut flowers.
His large-scale artwork has drawn comparison to that of renowned sculptors Anish Kapoor, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Goldsworthy. In Belgium he has been called “the Picasso of flower arranging,” and in France he was touted as “the international star of floral decoration.” Daniel Ost lives and works in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium, where he was born and raised.
Mr. Ost’s recent YouTube interview for the Garden helps explain his approach to the installation. Many orchids are epiphytes -- meaning they grow on the surface of another plant or tree, getting their nutrients from the air, rain, and water. And Ost says he was very much drawn to the orchid’s ability to grow like this.
He also explains why he chose the clear, plastic tubes that the orchid blossoms are attached to “like vines,” he says - throughout the three key installations in the show.
There is a huge funnel-like structure in the Palms of the World Gallery, right near the entrance to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory where the Orchid event is located at NYBG.
Rather than seeing a breathtaking display reflected in the moody black water of the pool here - the towering design in the Conservatory’s Palms of the World Gallery, is an 18-foot-tall sculpture by Ost that is meant to complement the height of the 90-foot-tall dome overhead.
“In the Seasonal Exhibition Galleries, his designs speak to the architecture of the glasshouse.”
There are two more site specific living art installations: a bamboo dome that holds an array of color-coordinated fiery yellows, oranges and red orchids.
The other is a hanging bamboo structure that runs the length of the central axis and is filled with Kodedama -- hanging orchids planted in moss.
I do love these and have been successfully growing one made by floral designer and landscape architect, EunYoung Sebazco and graduate of the Gardens School of Professional Horticulture, that I got at the “Nature in Art” show I curated not too long ago.
Within this area there are also kaleidoscopes of drop-dead gorgeous orchids and companion plants. These “orchid companions” include croton, dracaena, and more.
I especially liked the unique kalanchoe - Kalanchoe, Vrisea, Phormium on display that picked up the soft, subtle greens and flamingo pinks of the orchids.
We were told that Ost spotted these within the Garden’s Collection and insisted he wanted to have them in the installation. What a great eye for harmony the master has ...
I do recommend you go to see and experience the Orchid Show - and moreover, all the special collateral, orchid-themed events the Garden has lined up.
This show underscores the fact that art is provocative - it moves us and touches each of us in unique and profound ways. For me, I didn’t care for the clear tubes woven in and about the orchids like so many skeins of yarn. It looked like life support tubes in a medical environment and detracted from the simple elegance and sheer beauty of the orchid plants. I know. I know. I get the narrative and the artful back story. I have more than respect for Ost and his informed and impressive floral art installation. I write this with hesitation. I don’t want to be arbitrary or a spoiler. But I must be honest. It’s just that I prefer to see the orchids. In a more pristine or pretty design. This appears “messy” to me.
I had a challenge getting past the plastic tubes...
When I got on the subway this morning I saw an image that was reminiscent of the installation's tubes ...
Don’t hate me because I see the link with the Ost orchid tubes …
In years’ past, the orchids help tell the story of a culture or environmental diversity but at the same time were set in a tableau or “living picture” that was more sensual and inviting. And well, to be frank and honest, it was more glamorous and elegant.
Though, I do like the artist’s dreamy rendering: (there was just a lot more tubing in the final look).
Floral Artist Daniel Ost A Daniel Ost conceptual rendering for The Orchid Show
During “Orchid Evenings throughout the run of the exhibition, visitors experience music, tours, and special performances, with cash bars offering for purchase beer, wine, and cocktails, including the Dancing Lady, especially created for Orchid Evenings by Edible Bronx’s head mixologist.” The Garden notes “You can warm up around fire pits on Conservatory Plaza, then head into the glasshouse to explore the exhibition. Live performers add extra flair to the stunning displays of orchids, while curated music by a live DJ creates the perfect atmosphere to explore The Orchid Show. Alice Farkey’s whimsical Orchid Ladies roam the Conservatory.
Orchid Evenings are from 6:30– 9:30 p.m. on March 17, 24, and 31, April 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, and 21, and are for adults 21 and over.
Back to the floral art displays. We were told the clear tubes capture the sunlight and reflect… But I thought it was a bit of the Emperor’s New Clothes… There was the inarguable fact that there is a lot of plastic tubing to look at. I don’t like plastic. I was doomed.
The Ost-designed installations were also disappointing to me because while there were three, they are similar in style using clear tubing and bamboo as structural elements with the orchids featured on that. No reveal or aha or heart-clutching mystery…
While there are more orchids on display this year I was told, it didn’t create that impact or visual...
Let me know what you think after you experience the show.
The overwhelming element is: the orchids are sublime.
This year, NYBG’s 16th Annual Orchid Show Runs from March 3 through April 22, 2018
News on the show from the NYBG team: “The 2018 edition of The Orchid Show at The New York Botanical Garden, exhibiting commissioned works by Daniel Ost, opens on March 3 and runs through April 22, 2018. Entering its16th year, the popular exhibition, showcasing thousands of dramatically displayed orchids in the Botanical Garden’s historic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.
One of the world’s leading floral designers, Ost uses flowers as a means of expression. He identifies himself as a bloembinder, the Dutch term for an artist who works with flowers. His large-scale artworks have been tailored to the unique environment of the landmark Victorian- style Haupt Conservatory, complementing the architecture of the building while creating a transformative, dazzling spectacle of color, form, and texture. Bamboo arranged in grids and calling to mind the glass grids of the Conservatory, and clear tubing meant to both evoke water and connect to the Conservatory’s glass, are among the materials employed in his artful installations to which individual orchids are attached so that each flower and form can be seen and appreciated. The works pay homage to his training in ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. In ikebana, artists value the ideas of wabi-sabi, a philosophy that finds beauty in imperfection, asymmetry, and impermanence.
Ost trained in Belgium and the Netherlands before visiting Japan for the first time in 1983 where he befriended Noboru Kurisaki, one of the most prominent grand masters of ikebana, who became his mentor and teacher. He taught Ost that a single flower used the right way can be more impactful than thousands of flowers used en masse. This concept is particularly evident in one of Ost’s designs on view in The Orchid Show.
The Hudson Garden Grill is open for meals and light bits before Orchid Evening festivities.
Dining options include Hudson Garden Grill, NYBG’s full-service restaurant, and at the Pine Tree Café.
Orchid Show visitors may select from thousands of top-quality orchids, from exotic, hard-to- find specimens for connoisseurs to elegant yet easy-to-grow varieties for beginners, available for purchase at NYBG Shop, along with orchid products and books. Along with plenty of other, plant-inspired objets d’art, tablescape accessories, fashion, fragrance, and hostess gifts.
Orchids are eternally fascinating and have so much to teach us. Adult Education at NYBG gas thoughtfully produced and curated a number of classes you’ll enjoy participating in. See the lineup here:
Myths abound about how hard it is to care for this ever-popular orchid. Jim Freeman dispels those myths with plenty of sensible advice on how to treat your phalaenopsis so that it blooms year after year. Light, water, nutrients, repotting, and root care are all key. Walk away feeling confident and equipped with the knowledge to make your orchids thrive.
Saturday, March 17; 11 a.m.–2 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Jim Freeman
ORCHIDS: DIVIDE, REPOT, REJUVENATE!
Frank Guida, beloved Botanical Art teacher and orchid aficionado, shows you what he’s learned from years of helping out in NYBG’s Nolen Greenhouses, demonstrating when and how to divide and repot your orchids without trauma (to you or the plants!). Learn about different types of containers and potting media and making your own bark mix.
Saturday, March 24; 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Frank Guida
ORCHID MOUNTING (image from orchids made easy)
Show off the exquisite beauty of an orchid by mounting it on cork. Not only is this a showstopping piece of living décor, it is also healthy for the plant, mimicking the way epiphytic orchids grow in nature. Frank Guida, botanical artist and orchid aficionado, will discuss which species thrive on mounts and how to care for your newly mounted orchid.
aturday, March 24; 2–4:30 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Frank Guida
FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY: THE ORCHID SHOW
Get an exclusive opportunity to photograph The Orchid Show using your DSLR 100- 300mm telephoto lens, and dedicated speedlights. Master techniques to achieve
the best lighting and exposure for these vibrant flowers without the use of tripods or monopods. Afterward, return to the classroom for a review and critique of your images.
Required Equipment: DSLR, zoom telephoto lens (100-300mm focal length), other lenses if you desire, lens hood, dedicated speedlight, brackets, hotshoe cable or remote, and lunch.
Tuesday, April 3; 9 a.m.–3 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Jeffrey Falk
LIVING DÉCOR: TERRARIUMS WITH AIR PLANTS & ORCHIDS! (image from wanelo.co)
Create a mini rainforest with air plants and orchids in an open-style terrarium. Maria Colletti, author of Terrariums, will guide you as you design your own, and provide instruction on the care and maintenance of your miniature plant world.
Wednesday, April 4; 6:30–8:30 p.m., NYBG Monday, May 21; 6:30–8:30 p.m., Midtown Center Instructor: Maria Colletti
Get pro tips on how to care for orchids in less than optimal environments. Barbara Schmidt, award-winning exhibitor at the Philadelphia Flower Show and author of Orchid Care: For the Beginner, will walk you through which orchid genus will fare best in your indoor environment, as well as how to ensure your orchids have what they need to grow and bloom. Optional: Bring Your Own Orchid so Barbara can help you identify and/or troubleshoot its problems.
Saturday, April 14; 11 a.m.–1 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Barbara Schmidt
Register for classes at www.nybg.org/adulted
For more information about The Orchid Show and to purchase tickets, please visit the Garden’s Web site, www.nybg.org