The New York Botanical Garden flaunts a dazzling orchid show every spring. No doubt, there is an incredible amount of work and detail that goes into putting a display of over 5,000 plants representing 300 different species into one place. This year’s theme “On Broadway” is the collaboration of renowned set designer Scott Pask and theatrical advertiser Drew Hodges .
An entire orchid curtain inspired from the Walter Kerr Theater greets visitors as they first enter the conservatory. The living curtain was an interesting design, though not well lit. It didn’t seem to pop. There was no gasp, no breath taking display to inspire guests for what was to come.
The next room of the conservatory had orchids scattered throughout the permanent plant collections. Though there were some nice specimens, their placement and display made little visual impact. In fact, the majority of the conservatory looked the same as it does the rest of the year which made for a very long intermission.
As guests approach the final room of the conservatory they come across a “chandelier” suspended from the ceiling crafted out of live orchids. In theory it should be a showstopper, but because of the color combinations and species of plants incorporated, it just didn’t seem to work. The exit boasts one final tunnel of orchids which are displayed in a jarring manner making it impossible to appreciate their individual details.
The highlight of the show was several smaller arrangements featuring select orchid species mixed with other tropical foliage like Anthyriums and Bromeliads. These small container gardens, which could do well on an exterior patio or shaded rooftop garden, did an excellent job of creating good plant combinations that brought out the form and color of the orchid flowers. The color schemes of the rest of the show’s elements seemed inconsistent and color theory should have been given more attention when selecting the plant species.
The show’s theme might serve the exhibit better titled “Off Broadway.” Instead of showcasing orchids as unique and architectural plants, the designers seemed to focus on squeezing them into their themed structures which were the least memorable part of the show. Orchids should be celebrated as individual plants with highly evolved adaptations for survival and reproduction. The exhibit is well worth a visit, but as the lights fade on this year’s show in late April, I hope that next year’s designers do justice to one of the largest and most diverse plant families on earth.
What did you think of the show?