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Tropical Wonderland in the Big Apple: The Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden

Sculpture by Daniel Ost containing thousands of live dancing lady orchids; part of the Orchid Show display at the New York Botanical Garden. All photos courtesy of author.

By Shani R. Friedman

Other than allergy sufferers, who doesn’t love flowers? At the 16th annual Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden, visitors will be treated to a flower spectacular: an explosion of colour through installations designed by Belgian artist Daniel Ost, who was educated in floral design. Ost refers to himself as a bloembinder, the Dutch term for an artist who works with flowers. The show celebrates his training in the art of Ikebana, which is the Japanese art of flower arranging, as well as Kokedama, in which a plant’s root system is bound and transformed into sculptural art.

According to the NYBG, this year features the “widest range of orchid diversity ever presented in The Orchid Show.” Now let me hit you with a few fun facts about the orchid. These flowers are a scientific marvel, able to grow in markedly different climates, from deserts to rainforests. There are, according to the NYBG, “an estimated 30,000 naturally occurring orchid species and tens of thousands of artificially created hybrids, making Orchidaceae the largest plant family on Earth.” The orchid is also the only source of real vanilla.

In the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory’s Palms of the World gallery, Ost has created an 18-foot latticed dome of green timber bamboo interwoven with vibrant orchids. Reflecting his work in Kokedama, he used clear tubing to suspend the flowers from the ceiling, the tubing meant to represent rainforest vines to show how the orchid grows in the wild. These are the epiphyte orchids, which are tree-dwelling. There are also terrestrial orchids on the grounds of the conservatory. These can be found in the United States, including in this part of the country.

Ost’s domed bamboo-and-orchid sculpture, echoing the structure of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

CASCADE OF ORCHIDS, a tubing/live orchid structure by Ost featuring thousands of living species, including rainbow, cane and moth orchids.

According to the show’s curator, Marc Hachadourian, on Ost’s use of plastic tubing:

His original floral style is very sculptural, in which he uses plant material in non-traditional ways, but [is] also influenced by a lot of his Japanese training. He wanted to highlight each plant and have it individually focused. He chose the tubes because of the way they refract light. He wanted to teach people about the epyphitic nature of the plants. The show is conveying a larger message about the biology of the plants themselves, the horticulture behind and the beauty of the exhibition.

While we are still in the grip of winter, or at least Sprinter, escape to the tropical wonderland of The Orchid Show for the final weekend.

Potted terrestrial orchids, which grow directly in the ground as opposed to their epiphytic cousins.

Ost’s tubing displays, up close and personal.

Orchid Dancers created by Alice Farley

The Orchid Show runs through April 22nd. For information about the show, Orchid Evenings and more, visit https://www.nybg.org/event/the-orchid-show/.

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