NY Botanical Garden’s Delightful Orchid Show

Botanical Garden
Enter the historic Conservatory’s Palm Dome to begin your orchid show experience. The exhibition runs through April 23, 2023.

What You Didn’t know about Orchids 

By Cathie Arquilla
GoNOMAD Senior Writer

•The orchid is one of the largest families of flowering plants.
• Orchids are grown all over the globe, with the exception of Antarctica.
• The orchid species are both very rare and very plentiful.
• The most cultivated flower in the world is the orchid.
• The orchid was considered so sexually suggestive that it was attributed to causing fits of fainting among women in the Victoria age. Consequentially,     they were kept out of the home.
The New York Botanical Garden has one of the largest collections of orchids in any garden anywhere in the world.

Chinese landscape and garden principles are the inspiration for this year’s show.
Chinese landscape and garden principles are the inspiration for this year’s show.

The Orchid Show: Natural Heritage At NYBG

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the New York Botanical Garden’s floral spectacle, The Orchid Show. It’s the harbinger of spring, an opportunity to cast off coats and walk through the Conservatory’s tropical gardens replete with orchids of every size, shape, and color dripping off trees, creeping over rocks, and basking in shadow and light.

Landscape Designer Lily Kwong is the guest artist, and she brings both her Chinese heritage and chic design sensibilities to the project. Aptly called The Orchid Show: Natural Heritage. Ms. Kwong wants us to relish in the meditative quality of the installation and experience some self-discovery of our own. She explains, “Everyone has someone connected to the earth.” The hope is that this show encourages you “To look at the ancient wisdom of your own bloodlines” and consider how plant life speaks to you through them.

Lily Kwong
Landscape Artist Lily Kwong created a meditative installation that is both calming and exciting.

Lily is the first woman, and woman of color, to design the Orchid show at the Garden, and I felt its femininity. It didn’t have the brashness of previous shows. There are meditative moments–little spots of color that beg you to stop and breathe. At the same time, the exhibit has a real WOW factor.

Upon entering the spectacular Palm Dome, there is a big rock formation in a waveform that Lily recreated from landscape scroll paintings passed down to her family from her grandparents. As a second-generation Shanghai immigrant, these paintings took on a mythical aspect during Lily’s childhood, a homeland of dreams. And that mysticism is one of many inspirations for her design. Chinese landscape and garden principles provide the bones of the installation. It is zen indeed.

The Rainforest Gallery depicts how Orchids are grown in the wild. You’ll discover the vanilla bean, which comes from the seed pod of the Vanilla Planifolia orchid (another fun fact).

The final pavilion rounds up the show with an awe-inspiring orchid wonderland. Simply sublime!
The final pavilion rounds up the show with an awe-inspiring orchid wonderland. Simply sublime!

Continue to the spectacle in the final pavilion, and you are invited to walk through the 6-8 foot rock formations, some with waterfalls, literally getting massaged by color, light, sound, and smell. The senses are intoxicated! And the orchids? Well, they are beyond glorious.

Finally, a peaceful walk through medicinal orchid specimens, which speaks to the healing force of nature, gives the eyes a bit of a rest. A lovely way to wind down your visit and breath some more.

Named ELLE DECOR’s A-List, and Forbes 30 Under 30 (Art & Style), Lily’s has definitely gotten the attention of style-seekers. Her Los Angeles-based practice began in 2017, and she’s been involved in several notable public art projects since then, including The Highline, New York; Taipei Night Market, Taiwan: Bal Habor Shops, Florida.

Acclaimed composer Gary Gunn, who collaborated with Lily on the soundscape of the exhibition, deserves a bow for bringing a yogic sound to the show that is accompaniment, not a distraction. It’s perfect.

Lily Kwong in her element.
Lily Kwong in her element.

Inspiring visitors and learners to come to the Bronx 

Jennifer Bernstein, Chief Executive Officer of The Garden, says that “One of our major goals here at the beloved green space in the Bronx is to inspire visitors and learners of all ages to appreciate, respect, and care for nature.

This exhibition gives us an opportunity to showcase orchids, which are among the most celebrated and most beguiling of our unparalleled living plant collections, and to educate the public about NYBG’s plant research and conservation work, and it is our pleasure to be able to partner with Lily Kwong in that endeavor this time.”

The Orchid Show: Natural Heritage will likely bring thousands to NYBG, as the Orchid Show does each year. Visitors will definitely leave this year’s show feeling calmer, more joyful, and more reflective than when they came. Capture that feeling by going.

It runs through April 23rd, 2023. Find out more here

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