March 17, 2013

A Winter Respite IV

The rotunda, with its large pool, is
a great starting point for the show.  

Double-click on any photo to see
the display at full-screen size.
The Enid Haupt Conservatory, the huge, turn-of-the-20th-Century glass house that is the icon of the New York Botanical Garden, is a chameleon.  The trees and shrubs inside don't change, but their coloring is as malleable as a jar of Silly Putty.  One day, the interior space hosts a tribute to Emily Dickinson, the next, it has been transformed into Monet's Giverny.  Each year at Christmas, a train runs through it.  And, each March and April, it becomes a tropical paradise filled with orchids.

Panels of explanatory text make
it an educational experience.
We were at the eleventh annual edition of The Orchid Show yesterday.  It was snowing in New York but, in a cavernous Lord & Burnham structure in the Bronx, it was a balmy 70 degrees and the air was redolent of vanilla and spice.  We were the first visitors inside (see below) and we had the opportunity to linger over both the 7,000 orchids on display and the explanatory text that accompanied many exhibits.

The Three Graces amid
a display of rare orchids
The rotunda is filled with orchids; they reflect beautifully against the large pool.  Then, as you circle the conservatory clockwise, the exhibition begins to build, like a fireworks display.  Each hall provides a fresh burst of color, together with text panels to put everything in context.  By the time you get to the 'special exhibits' halls (the NYBG's equivalent of that fireworks show's grand finale), you have a good, if basic, understanding of where orchids come from and how they fit into the plant kingdom.  It is horticulture as entertainment, but you can't help but come away a bit wiser.

In the Special Exhibits Hall, the orchids
explode as at the finale of a fireworks display
It was also a reminder that New England is not alone in being still in the grip of winter.  Apart from some aconites, NYBG is still very much buttoned up for winter.  Somehow, we found that comforting.

While the Orchid Show stands as an independent attraction for NYBG and a welcome end-of-winter retreat, it is also a reminder of an important role the garden plays in the orchid world.  Each year, thousands of rare or endangered orchid plants are confiscated at various U.S. ports of entry.  Rather than being destroyed, many of them are shipped to New York and placed under NYBG's care.

The NYBG's publicity machine has worked overtime to make this year's show known to everyone on the planet and, as a result, the show is mobbed.  We left our suburban Boston home at 6:15 a.m. and pulled up to the visitor's entrance at 9:35.  The garden does not open until 10 a.m. but we were allowed to park in the valet area until the lot formally opened at 9:45.  Once we had our parking spot, we found we could go directly into the gardens.  We made a beeline for the Conservatory and found, because of the temperature and biting wind, that we were allowed to wait in the orchid-filled rotunda, even though it was still just 9:50.  As a result, we were into the Orchid Show with just a handful of people.  When we left at noon, the show was extremely crowded.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photographs, beautiful setting ... such a nice preview of seasons yet to come.