Orchid Show 2023 Opens at NYBG – 20th Year

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By Jill Brooke

The 20th annual Orchid Show returns to The New York Botanical Garden with landscape artist Lily Kwong as the guest designer this year.

The immensely popular show runs from February 19th to April 23rd.

Kwong is an inspired choice by the executives at what we call the Harvard laboratory for flowers. For the past two years, NYBG’s orchid show was designed by superstar Jeff Leatham. He is the florist to the Four Seasons hotels, Philadelphia Flower Show as well as stars ranging from Taylor Swift, and Miley Cyrus to Oprah. Leatham’s exuberant designs focus on exploding purple vanda orchids and rainbows of colorful blooms.

Kwong’s show looks for cultural expressions and connections. As the show explains, The Orchid Show: Natural Heritage explores the diversity, adaptability, and worldwide cultural significance of these formidable flowers.

Her vision is “inspired by classic paintings of Chinese mountain scapes passed down through her family from Shanghai.” Naturally, there will be an extraordinary array of orchids—5,500 including iconic and rare specimens—in what is described as “towering mountainous forms that blend ecology, culture, and fantasy.”

Again, Kwong is a landscape designer so her vision is influenced by the harmony of land and flowers. In fact, organizers say that the show is influenced “by Kwong’s own heritage, medicinal traditions, and her artistic interpretation of nature as a healing force” to reflect how humanity and nature can coexist peacefully.

What a lovely message. And let’s not forget that, unlike Western culture that abandoned the use of flowers throughout history, Asian culture not only embraced the development and cultivation of flowers but used blooms as part of healing, inspiration and decoration. Some of our favorite flowers used in our homes today came from Asia. Furthermore, orchids are one of the most popular house plants both for their beauty and longevity. especially those produced by farms like Westerlay. But NYBG also offers the opportunity to see rare plants that for connoisseurs are the caviar of orchids.

“It felt urgent to celebrate an Asian-centered perspective in the midst of this charged and precarious moment,” she said. “The piece is meant to offer a bridge of cultural understanding across the valley between us, and act as an invitation to celebrate the diverse lineages that make up our country.” 

Love this idea, don’t you? Rooting us together through flowers. The show becomes “an immersive world in which humanity and nature coexist peacefully.”

Part of the reason that people from around the country and especially New Yorkers put this show on their calendar is that you are literally uplifted and the molecules in your brain change as you walk through the exhibit and are enveloped with feelings of beauty and peace.

After all, in the language of flowers, orchids represent the luxury and nobility of love.

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,  floral editor for Aspire Design and Home magazine and contributor to Florists Review magazine.

Photo: NYBG