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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
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

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

Talk about a Pinterest/Facebook/Instagram/Twitter
Free up the Cloud; bring a camera or two– you’ll want to
share these images on all your social media “plantforms” – er
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

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
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
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’
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
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
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
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
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
You can become a member and dispense with waiting on
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.


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