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The Seductive Orchid Show at NYBG Celebrates Singapore, Awkafina, and Plant Love

Spectacular Entrance to NYBG Orchid Show 2019 : Supertree 

The New York Botanical Garden’s (NYBG) annual orchid exhibition returns with a spectacular show this year.

The Orchid Show: Singapore, is a horticultural tribute to the island nation – often referred to as the “City in a Garden.”

This year’s orchid show is an inspired homage to one of the world’s great orchid and tropical plant cultures that was developed in partnership with Gardens by the Bay (a rather newish garden completed in 2012 at a noteworthy investment) and the Singapore Botanic Gardens — and in particular, their two swoon-worthy architectural elements.

The first is the iconic Supertrees of Gardens by the Bay (They remind me of the parasol-like structures at the Los Angeles Getty Museum that I wrote about years ago. There the structures are draped in bougainvillea.)

Supertrees at Singapore’s Garden by the Bay 

By way of background, there are 18 Supertrees in Singapore; 16 stories tall, and according to the their site, each Supertree is filled with more than 163,000 plants “comprising more than 200 species and varieties of bromeliads, orchids, ferns, and tropical flowering climbers” – and they get a’ twinkling, romantic light at night. It’s no wonder it was named Trip Advisor’s 2018 Traveler’s Choice.

But for you – it’s an easy trip to the Bronx to catch a very glamorous rendition as interpreted by the Garden’s designers to anchor the exhibit: one Supertree welcomes you as you enter the Palm House and the other is under the Conservatory dome at the far end of the Arch allee.

That other emblematic structure reimagined for the show is inspired by the famed Arches of Singapore Botanic Gardens’ National Orchid Garden.

Singapore’s Arches 

Here at NYBG:

As Marc Hachadourian, NYBG’s Director of Glasshouse Horticulture and Senior Curator of Orchids, explained, that while part of the design effort was to recreate both the Arches and the Supertrees as a key design element, the real design genius is that working within the space here, the team had to take into account the limits of height, as well as moving people through the space, plus – transition.

Using the iconic gold colors as the first few Arches, one’s eye only sees that spectrum of color – “We can’t see beyond the first two,” Hachadourian noted. “It’s an illusion,” created by the design so you think all the arches are gold/yellow – until you are two arches in – and then shazam – you are walking under the purple arches.

It’s like Candyland with plants!

The other remarkable bit of magic is how the NYBG team, led by Marc, is able to orchestrate the bloom time for maximum wow.

Marc shared a story, when in years past, a lady visitor whispered to him very conspiratorially that she was “on to him.” Intrigued, he leaned in to better understand where she was going with this, when she unexpectedly claimed the blooms were fake and the Garden must’ve painted all the blossoms. Sigh… After some logical and scientific explanation, she soon understood her error and at least added how silly she felt…

Plants are so real and gorgeous that some folks can only grasp their magic by believing they are fake… But the good news is – they are all very much the real deal. Let’s please protect these astonishing bijoux of the plant world, shall we?

(And we got such a kick out of this cameraman who seemed particularly coordinated with the gold and yellow design! Really? Yellow pants and sneakers! Well done!)

Marc Hachadourian leading the press preview through the Arches 

The NYBG team has done a masterful job of curating the show, as well.

While it’s rather easy to be seduced by all the orchids’ heart-clutching, “eye candy” colors and textures. Resist — well a bit, anyway. The extra look will enhance your orchid show experience. Pinky promise…

And speaking of ‘pink, this one’s a good example to illustrate the please be sure to note the artful plant companion pairings of exotic orchids with tropical plants.

For example, the violet stems of the Cordyline showcase the graded pinks on the Asian Corsage, Cymbidium Flamingo’s throat and bloom.

Look at these color and texture plant pairings! Fuschia/purple/rosy pink – and green!

Then there’s the fiery red stems of the Lipstick Palm (don’t you love that cosmic cosmetic moniker?!) of the Cyrtostachys Renda laden with Oncidium Fueo ‘Rose Quartz’ billowing at it’s stem in this container display:

Ahh – the soft lilac-tipped, all fashion-forward beauty paired with the deep purple Vanda.

I also loved this display – under the Hibiscus tiliaceus ‘Tricolor’ leaves – (purple/pink/white) — there’s also tri-colored perennials hugging the border of many of the displays that are the ideal foil to the orchid’s bold hues.

You must see this show.

Showcasing thousands of dramatically displayed orchids in a dazzling variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and patterns in the Botanical Garden’s landmark Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the exhibition pays homage to Singapore, where the national flower is — what else — an orchid.

At The New York Botanical Garden, The Orchid Show: Singapore creates a kaleidoscope of colors with thousands of spectacular orchids, including dancing lady (Oncidium), rainbow (Vanda), cane (Dendrobium), and Asian corsage orchids (Cymbidium), and many other exotic tropical species.

How many do you ask? Well, if you’re a fan of metrics, Marc says there are three to five thousand plants on display at the show! There are more than 10,000 blooms; a couple of hundreds hybrids and species.

Did you know there are more than 30K orchids in the natural world?

Marc had some fun orchid facts and some orchid fun “tests.”

Here you go: Do you know what state in US has the most orchids – (spoiler alert – it’s not Hawaii). Alaska is #1. New Jersey – the Garden State is #2 and New York is #3.

Surprising, right?

Also note, today, the orchid is the most widely cultivated and prolific plant.

The Orchid Show highlights the sensational, show-stopping beauty of these plant stars, but also points out the science-based facts of their at-risk habitats and species decline.

Interestingly, the orchid is the oldest accessioned plant at NYBG – having been entered in 1902.

And today, Singapore Botanic Gardens and NYBG possess the top-two largest and most diverse orchid collections in the world.

This is another element of the Orchid Show that delights – meaning you can’t help but learn so many intriguing and beguiling facts about these captivating plants.

Here in this video, Hachadourian explains just what are the characteristics of a plant that makes an orchid an orchid!

One last “fun” fact: Did you know the Confucius praised the cymbidium as the symbol of perfect personality? It’s sweet smell was thought to be the ancestor of all fragrances (although few have a scent today…) 

In addition to the exhibition’s stunning centerpieces and information highlighting Singapore’s achievements, the Haupt Conservatory galleries spotlight orchid varieties from NYBG’s exquisite permanent collection, and its long-standing commitment to orchid cultivation, research, and conservation, along with orchids from some of the finest growers in the world, selected and assembled by NYBG horticulturists. Orchids of seemingly every conceivable shape and provenance, including rare and iconic specimens, are on display.

I was especially intrigued by the new orchid hybrids.

These are the new Butterfly or Big Lip Phalaenopsis. And raspberry blooming spots, too!

Love the fragrant Pansy Orchids. I used to grow these and love their happy visage, too.

Enjoy the sunny orange orchids – orange signifies courage, happiness, love, and good health in Asian culture.

Another highlight to look for are the orchids displayed next to very intriguing tropical plants. Their colors, shapes, and sculpture are yet another perfect foil for the orchid divas. There are rocks, StagHorn Ferns, Bromeliads…

Love this color Phalaenopsis Surf Song under the StagHorn Ferns.

Thank you to NYBG – and especially the Communications team for hosting a flawless press preview.

The garden sprites blessed us with extraordinary sunny and rather warm temps – especially after Wednesday’s snow storm. Walking up to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and seeing a gathering next to a food pop-up was a welcome site indeed.

I later learned that these two local food makers are part of the Garden’s Night Market.

Loved those mini empanadas from husband & wife team at Empanology – launched late last year; based on a recipe from his abuela! Mmmm

As part of the overall Orchid program, you’ll be able to purchase a bite to eat from the Bronx Night Market Pop-up while freestyle dancers and DJs perform throughout the night, and explore the kaleidoscope of orchid varieties from the “City in a Garden” and beyond.

The Bronx Night Market brings together handpicked food vendors in celebration of the Bronx’s diverse culture. This special pop-up during Orchid Evenings features a rotating selection of Market favorites and Asian-inspired dishes.

I, for one, am thrilled that the Bronx and its cultural institutions are at last – getting to celebrating the food and drink of the neighborhoods. (Better late than…)

Welcoming the media to the preview is the wowsy, ever-cool and stylish “new” president of the Garden, Carrie Rebora Barratt.

It’s thrilling not only to have a woman (another, finally) in leadership at NYBG but also to see one so clearly on the exciting edge of style and fashion and knowledge.

Barratt confidently strode up to speak in a stunning white Melitta Baumeister with a kind of quilted puffy Kawakubo fabric — over a black long-sleeved tank — and sported silver moon boots. WOW. (Almost forgot about the orchids!)

It’s gonna be sooo exciting to cover the Garden – with a style icon at the helm.

There is pure beauty everywhere at the Orchid Show.

Don’t forget to Look Up — there are many hanging and draping Vandas. Vandas grow in every color of the rainbow.

One big, breaking news at the preview was the announcement that, for the first time, NYBG Named an Orchid — after New York’s own celebrity: Awkwafina.

Vanda Awkwafina, the First Orchid NYBG Has Ever Named After a Public Figure

Vanda Awkwafina

Awkwafina, photo by Brian Higbee

NYBG wrote: At a Media Preview for its new exhibition The Orchid Show: Singapore, The New York Botanical Garden announced that it had named an orchid in its collection after Awkwafina, who has starred in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8. This is the first time NYBG has named an orchid after a public figure.
The orchid is a Vanda hybrid (Susan Best × Crownfox Black Forest), one of a group of orchids important to Singapore orchid culture and orchid breeding. Singapore has even selected a related Vanda hybrid (Vanda Miss Joaquim) as its national flower. They are one of the few types of orchids with flowers in all colors of the rainbow. Cultivated forms come in every imaginable shade of purple, blue, orange, apricot, yellow, and red—many with spots and patterns. The large colorful blooms are among the most prized of all tropical orchids and many are featured throughout this year’s orchid exhibition.
The orchid Vanda Awkwafina will be kept in NYBG’s world-renowned orchid collection, where NYBG staff will care for it and proudly display it for the public during The Orchid Show: Singapore, which runs from February 23 through April 28, 2019.

“The flower of this plant has a bold, vibrant, intense color, with deep raspberry-red blooms of excellent quality, which seemed to be a perfect orchid to carry the name Awkwafina,” said Marc Hachadourian.

Hachadourian obtained the Singapore-native hybrid from RF Orchids in Homestead, Florida, and registered the orchid in her name with the International Orchid Register. “We think Awkwafina is the perfect choice because of her accomplishments in music and film as well as her prominence as a native New Yorker.

The New York Botanical Garden has a commitment to saving the plants of the world and Earth’s biodiversity, and naming an orchid after Awkwafina helps us build awareness of our long-standing commitment to orchid cultivation, research, and conservation at a time when climate change and other environmental challenges are increasingly threatening plant life on Earth.”

The Energy and Nightlife of Singapore Come to the Bronx During Orchid Evenings

A Very Robust Orchid-Filled Program:
On select Fridays and Saturdays throughout the run of the exhibition, visitors experience the show with music and cash bars offering beer, wine, and cocktails for purchase, like the Singapore Sling, and the installations brilliantly illuminated.

New York City’s most spectacular evening outings are back, bringing the color and nightlife of Singapore with them. Step into one of the world’s greenest cultures as Supertrees come alive around you, exhilarating with a display of lights and orchids after dark in the Conservatory. Experience the sights and sounds of Singaporean nightlife with Chua Yun Chun and her dance company as they take turns performing urban choreography to the sounds of DJ Eli Tyler.

Orchid Evenings

The exhibition remains open for an additional hour (until 7 p.m.) on two evenings—Thursday, February 28, and Thursday, March 7—for All-Garden Pass ticket holders to experience The Orchid Show: Singapore at night.

On select Fridays and Saturdays, Orchid Evenings return, NYC’s most spectacular evening outings, capturing the energy and nightlife of Singapore, with a display of lights and orchids after dark, music, and cocktails for purchase (adults 21 and over, special ticket required).
Orchid Evenings take place March 16, 23, and 30; April 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, and 27, from 7–10 p.m., with entry times at 7, 7:30, and 8 p.m.
Orchid Evening tickets are $38 for Non-Members and $28 for Members. Advanced purchase is recommended to guarantee admission; events do sell out. Orchid Evenings are for adults 21 and over.

Tours, Demonstrations, and Orchids for Sale During The Orchid Show: Singapore

The Orchid Show: Singapore is part of NYBG’s year-long theme: #plantlove, featuring exhibitions, programs, and projects exploring the essential connections between plants, people, and the environment.

  • Drop in on an Orchid Insiders Tour, Tuesdays–Fridays, at 12:30 p.m. Expert guides await in the Conservatory’s Palm Dome to introduce you to the biology of Orchidaceae, one of the largest and most diverse plant families on Earth, and provide highlights about current orchid research projects undertaken by NYBG scientists.
  • During Orchid Care Demonstrations in the Conservatory’s GreenSchool on Saturdays and Sundays, at 2:30 and 3:30 p.m., NYBG’s orchid experts discuss the basics of orchid care, including advice on how to choose and successfully grow these elegant plants. (Please note that space is limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.)

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.

I fell hard for the silk Singapore scarves:

Orchid Basics Q&A sessions take place on Saturdays and Sundays, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., at NYBG Shop, where staff provide tips on orchid care and help you select the best orchid to purchase for your home.

Dining options during the exhibition include Hudson Garden Grill, NYBG’s full-service restaurant, and at the Pine Tree Café.

The Orchid Show runs from February 23 through April 28, 2019. Hardly long enough to not only take in this robust program activity and entertainment but also to return many times to view it both day and night — the light changes the beauty of the plants just as a Dutch Master’s painting.

Plus the Garden’s Hort team will be cycling in new and different orchid species as they arrive from afar – or just from NYBG’s own Nolan Greenhouses. Plant Art changes all the time, and this is a very big reason why plants clutch our hearts and dreams so much.

I’ll leave you with this enchanting video of a dreamy and tranquil orchid composition from the Orchid Show. The combination of orchids, ferns, water is transporting, serene….

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