the orchid show, new york botanical gardens, 2023

will travel for orchids

Nothing says spring in the city like the annual orchid show at the New York Botanical Gardens. It’s a good time of year. A sign that the end of winter is near. A time when you feel compelled, obligated even, to crawl out of the indoor winter life. When the city starts to bloom. And feelings of optimism permeate the city.

There are many places one can go to bask in the glory of spring. But perhaps none as ostentatious and unabashedly extravagant as the orchid show. No. The Orchid Show.

This year was its 20th year, and designer Lily Kwong delivered once again, creating an immersive experience that hugs its visitors with the delicate yet powerful flowers, in bold alluring colors that you in. 

Orchids are so often seen in small doses. Like little sculptures made by nature, as much a plant as it is an art in the context of interiors. And out in the wild, like a magical stumbled upon jewel. They are beautiful because they are rare, the exotic shapes and vibrant colors spark wonder.

And when you are suddenly presented with a wonderland of orchids, it’s intoxicating.

The sheer number of kinds of orchids represented was impressive. Many, to my untrained eye, out of context wouldn’t even read as orchids. 

So many colors. So many shapes. Big and small. Rounded and pointy. Some quite hefty, others quite dainty. Some with the prettiest gradients. Others with bold contrasting patterns. 

I came on a Saturday afternoon. It was early April. Pouring rain all morning. Gloomy when I left Brooklyn. And then suddenly, thankfully, sunny upon emerging in the Bronx. It was also humid. Which, to be honest, felt on brand for a day spent with orchids. The first humid day of the year, a teaser for what was to come. Novel for a bit.

The gardens were bustling with activity, many many visitors spread out across the grounds, and of course, more density around the Orchid Show. Entering the conservatory felt like walking into a magical larger than life dollhouse filled with beautiful things. Sharing air with nature in a way that feels like a treat for city dwellers. And exploring each room, walking along the well designed flow of the space was delightful. 

Missed her moment by just a couple days (but I suppose it was nice to be able to not have to mouth breathe in the room)

Of course, my southern Californian self felt most at home in the dry climate by the cacti. It was cute to see the orchids mingling with desert plants in an airy, almost whimsical space. 

And then there was the showstopper room. The climax. The grand finale. The postcard shot. I think everyone collectively lost their minds when they got in here. Based on the buzz of excitement, the cameras and phones and lit up eyes, bringing out the child in us all, playful, filled with wonder, curiosity, exploring the beauties of the world. 

I mean, just look. 

It’s surreal. Feeling small in this curated, perfectly orchestrated symphony of nature in an unnatural way. An imagination of paradise for the masses: lush, colorful, bountiful. Excess done right. But also the knowledge that this is not forever, which makes it even more special, more cherished. 

I mean, there were even orange trees.

Living art. Like a painting in 3D, explored and experienced from the within.

Eventually made it out. As in, forced ourselves to leave the wonderful beautiful paradise. And wandered the gardens a bit more to appreciate other signs of spring. 

Perky daffodils brightening up the fields with their sunny demeanor. 

Some lone blossoming trees among many that had yet to bloom in the early weeks of spring. 

So anyways, the Orchid Show is as wonderful as they say. 11/10. 5 stars. Highly recommend. Would go again. And can’t wait to return to NYBG for the next season. 

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