By Jill Brooke
When you are the New York Botanical Garden – the most respected floral laboratory in the world – it’s not so hard to attract stars to create buzz- and we’re not talking about bees.
Last year, the New York Botanical Garden named an orchid after “Crazy Rich Asians” actress Awkwafina for its annual show. This year, the Harvard of Botanical Gardens collaborated with famed floral designer Jeff Leatham. He will bring his artistic flair to its 18th Annual Orchid Show – which runs from February 15th to April 19th, 2020.
This is exciting news. Really exciting news.
What’s Leatham Got to Do with It? Well, not only are his clients the Queen of Soul, Tina Turner, but also the Queen of Soul Searching, the great Oprah Winfrey. Oh yes, other clients include Cher, Dolly Parton and the Dalai Lama.
What can visitors to the February exhibit expect?
“Color is the first and most important aspect of my work, always,” explains Jeff Leatham. “I want every gallery to be a different color experience for visitors as they move through them, like looking into a kaleidoscope. I loved kaleidoscopes as a child. You start dreaming as you look through one. People have seen the interiors of the Conservatory already, but with this exhibition, I want them to look through them like never before.”
Already plans include arches of hanging orchids in a rainbow of colors to deliver a kaleidoscopic tunnel effect for this cosmopolitan flower that has over 25,000 family members.
Since the NYBG team wisely tries to infuse their orchid show with a different artistic sensibility, each year has its own buzzy anticipation. For 2020, there is a lot around Leatham.
But this has to be a fun project for the Los Angeles based designer as well.
Sure, he is at the top of the food chain in his career and also has best-selling books including “Flowers by Jeff Leatham,” “Flowers by Design,” and “Jeff Leatham: Visionary Floral Art and Design.”
And yes, he is a world-famous designer who has climbed cultural hurdles. You know how the French have a way of sniffing as if it’s an unpleasant smell when American style is invoked? Well, Leatham became the award-winning artistic director of the Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris! Mais oui. The French adore his work as well, and now thousands of people who can’t afford his price points can experience his talent in February at The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope.
In fact, Leatham has produced spectacular displays in Paris for nearly two decades, and in 2014, he was knighted with the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres—the highest honor for artists and others who have made a significant contribution to French culture.
But this honor to oversee NYBG’s Orchid Show is in the U.S. I would think it will be something special for his life highlight reel.
It’s like being the “Saturday Night Live” host among a team of greats who you get to play and perform with.
Leatham will be working with the esteemed horticulturists from NYBG including Senior Curator of the Orchid Collection Marc Hachadourian. Together, they will assemble orchids from NYBG and also gather other prized specimens from around the world. As we know, the show will have orchids in every conceivable shape, size, color and wow factor.
We can’t wait.
In fact, maybe if you don’t live near New York, plan a trip around it.
Invoke Leatham’s vision of a kaleidoscope as well – which is relatable to many kids – to encourage people to come.
The kaleidoscope has ancient links to great gardens. By the 17th century, an ornate corridor with 357 mirrors at the Palace of Versailles became a popular attraction. In fact, mirrors also helped achieve symmetry in planning ornamental gardens. When the kaleidoscope was commercialized in 1817 by Scotsman Dr. David Brewster, it showed how science and art could converge and become a “philosophical toy.”
Nature gives us materials to create beautiful patterns that inspire and delight. In their talented hands, Leatham and the NYBG will soon produce a presentation for this orchid exhibit that they describe as “breathtaking configurations.” But more than that, it will be an extraordinary opportunity to witness and enjoy a collaboration of the greats in their fields and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD.
Photo Credits: NYBG, Jeff Leatham photo credit, Raphe Wolfgang