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Orchid show at the New York Botanical Garden: flowers in fashion

Leonid Rayevsky

journalist, travel guide and guide


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Once again we were pleased with the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx with its “Orchid Show”. The fact is that in English the concept of “Show” has two main interpretations. On the one hand, this is a demonstration exhibition, and on the other, a unique performance. But the staff of the New York Botanical Garden manage to combine these approaches in their “shows”. This was the case in “HOLIDAY TRAIN SHOW”, where a seemingly ordinary exhibition of miniature trains was combined with a demonstration of famous buildings of old and modern New York and completely unusual compositional solutions. So here, albeit unique, but on the whole a traditional exhibition of orchids, was combined with extraordinary compositions by three modern designers from the world of floristry. It is this new exhibition-show that this column is dedicated to.

Now nature in the park is coming to life. Spring is coming into its own more and more confidently. This is exactly what time, from February 17 to April 21, and the traditional “Orchid Show” is held. This year it takes place for the 21st time. And the number of orchids presented on it, compared to previous years, is a record one. It is already approaching 7000.

Here and below is a photo of the author (unless otherwise indicated in the signature)

It is a meроThe event is held in the historic building of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, erected back in 1902. It is a system of eleven glass pavilions located symmetrically around the large central Palm House. Together they form a C-shaped building 512 feet (156 m) long with a central pavilion covered by a grand dome 90 feet (27 m) high. Each pavilion houses separate groups of plants, distinguished by a specific combination of conditions, in particular, temperature and humidity. Although their composition is adjusted over time, the basic concept of their placement remains virtually unchanged. The basic collection, as a rule, is permanent.

And now, here they warmly welcome the traditional flower exhibition, the opening of which thousands of orchid admirers have long been impatiently awaiting.

If you didn’t make it to the event or want to learn more about it, we invite you to a fascinating text journey through the exhibition pavilions. We start from the main hall of the complex, under its wonderful dome, at the small pool in the center and we will move along the ring, starting with the Lowland Tropical Rain Forest.

As already mentioned, three wonderful designers took part in the design of the exhibition halls this year, whose works were placed in three different exhibition pavilions. And here in the central pavilion, right at the entrance to the exhibition, we are greeted by a composition of five stylized female figures, made Olivia Cheng - founder and creative director of the luxury clothing brand Dauphinette. At age 19, with just $2000, Cheng founded Dauphinette as a collection of upcycled outerwear, calling it "The Happiest Brand on Earth." Since then, she's channeled her passion for unconventional materials into everything from her famous resin-preserved jewelry to the couture pieces that featured 50 percent recycled materials on her New York Fashion Week runways.

In 2021, Cheng became the youngest designer to exhibit her work as part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "In America: The Lexicon of Fashion" exhibition, and last year she was named one of Forbes magazine's "30 Under 30" list.

As Dauphinette's West Village flagship store in New York has quickly become one of the city's favorite shopping destinations, Cheng has been on a mission to incorporate upcycling into global luxury fashion.

But it’s high time for us to go to the exhibition halls. And there we will first of all try to remind you of some facts about orchids and their characteristics.

The most amazing thing in the history of these beautiful and noble flowers is that they are one of the oldest in the world, the same age as dinosaurs. Another proof of this is a fragment of amber found in 2005 in the Dominican Republic with an extinct worker bee frozen in it. Scientists have determined that the bee is 15–20 million years old, and the pollen on it belongs to an orchid. Researchers suggest that the age of orchids ranges from 20 to 130 million years. However, in written sources the flower was first mentioned by the Greek philosopher Theophrastus (VI-V centuries BC). He gave the name to the flower - “orchis” (from Greek “testicles” - since its roots most often represented a pair of bulbs). And then we increasingly find mention of orchids in Chinese sources. So in 500 BC. from the famous Confucius we find: “The words of those beloved by the heart are the most delicate scent of orchids.” ПHowever, in those ancient times, orchids were best known as medicinal plants. And the list of diseases that were treated using their flowers (and their number numbers tens of thousands of species) in many countries is huge.

In ancient China, there was a legend about how one day the Chinese Emperor Shen Nun, a famous scientist and healer, sent his servants in search of a plant that he saw in a dream and which, it seemed to him, had healing properties. The servants traveled all over the country, but never found this plant. Eventually, one of the servants wandered into a deep forest and saw a strange thing on the ground. orchid. Having collected it, the servant brought it to the emperor, who was surprised by its beauty and amazed at its healing properties. Thus began the history of collecting orchids and their use in Chinese medicine. Shen Nun quickly came to the conclusion that orchids could cure many diseases and increase vitality. And since then, orchids have been widely used in medicines and traditional medicine in China, and then throughout the world.

Since those ancient times, these bright flowers have spread across all continents except Antarctica. They account for almost a seventh of all flowers on earth. They grow almost everywhere - in the jungle and in the mountains, on tree branches and bare rocks, on land and in water. There are even two types of orchids that spend their entire lives in darkness - they grow and bloom under a layer of soil. But orchids conquered Europe relatively recently. For a long time, it was known from the stories of sailors that they grow in tropical forests, but numerous attempts to transport them across the ocean ended in failure. The first living orchid was brought to Britain from the Bahamas in 1793. Then Captain Bligh brought 15 more flowering plants from his sea voyage. And in the 500th century, England was literally seized by “orchid fever.” Expeditions of orchid hunters were sent to tropical countries. The price of XNUMX pounds per branch did not surprise anyone. Rich collectors generously shelled out large sums to admire the “aristocrat of the flower world” in their winter garden. Growing orchids has become fashionable and a sign of good manners. H.G. Wells in his story “The Bloom of an Extraordinary Orchid” wrote: “Buying orchids has always been a somewhat risky business. In front of you is a dark lump of some dried fabrics, but for the rest you must trust your taste or your own choice, or the persuasion of the auctioneer, or just a happy accident.”

Of course, the flower, recognized in the world as “royal”, has acquired a huge number of legends throughout its existence. First of all this the myth of the "White Orchid" especially popular in America. It tells the story of how a young man named Juan received a royal order to find a rare orchid of an exotic color in the jungles of South America to decorate the palace. One day he came to a small village, where he was allowed to spend the night in an old church. Waking up, Juan saw a white flower of dazzling beauty near the church cross. The priest did not agree to all his requests to give the orchid, telling the story of how the flower once saved the villagers. They were then dying from drought and began to turn away from Christianity and return to paganism in the hope that their gods would give them water. And the priest asked them to bring him the most precious thing they had. And people took this flower from the pagan altar and brought it to the church. As soon as the flower found itself within the walls of the temple, a miracle happened - it started to rain. And when it ended, they saw that the rare flower shone with snow-white light. Since then, the orchid in South America has been considered a symbol of Christian faith - the flower of God's grace, and the white color means purity and spiritual integrity.

There are many legends about the extraordinary beauty of Aphrodite, one of which is "The Legend of Venus's Slipper" - associated with a beautiful plant. Born from sea foam, the goddess was in love with the beautiful Adonis. But their feelings were not pleasing to the other gods, so the lovers were forced to hide. During one of these meetings, the couple was met by Zeus. The angry thunderer began to throw lightning. The lovers took refuge in a cave, where, in a fit of passion, Aphrodite lost her shoe. An orchid grew in the place where it fell. Since then, the plant has been considered a symbol of passion.

No less interesting and "The Legend of the Rainbow Shards"» from New Zealand. According to legend, one day over the skeleton of a cloud the clouds were so strongрThere was such a sky that the sun could not even see a piece of earth. Then it tried to disperse them with its rays, and the clouds began to rain. After him, such a bright shining rainbow appeared in the sky that many evil spirits flocked to its light. Each of them tried to find a place for themselves on it. As a result, the rainbow could not withstand such a load and broke into small multi-colored fragments. They fell to the ground and turned in colorful oрhidei.

Thosenow, when you and I are already moving around the hectaresto the exhibitors, one more important feature should be noted. Orchids are not placed in empty pavilions, and in halls of the currentрAngerei with its centuries-old trees, cmotрnew пplatforms, incourtyards with pools and fountains. Thus, we simultaneously take you on a journey through the galleries of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

But let’s return to orchids, which are undoubtedly an absolutely amazing creation of nature, a symbol of harmony and perfection, attracting with their tenderness, splendor and charm. With an unimaginable variety of colors and shades. Of course, according to the classification of plants existing in biology, all flowers are divided into groups according to families, genera and species. Where each species is further divided into varieties. But for us, carrying out a cursory examination of the flower kingdom, the most interesting are their differences, depending on the method of existence on the earth's surface. According to this principle, orchids are divided into several groups. The smallest of them is lithophytes. Plants grow on rocks and mountain ledges exposed to rain and wind. Psilophytes, which grow on limestone slopes, are classified into a separate category. The flowers and leaves of these plants are usually smaller than those of other groups, and they grow upward and to the sides.

The next Group - terrestrial orchids. They have a traditional root system buried in the ground. Most often found in temperate climates. They look like ordinary wild or garden flowers growing vertically.

The most common group of plants are – epiphytes, having an aerial root system that participates in photosynthesis along with the deciduous mass. The open roots of the flower entwine tree trunks, clinging to uneven bark, or are fixed on stones. Most orchid plants belong to the group of epiphytes. They differ in a variety of colors and bud sizes. Due to the abundance of flowers on the peduncle, they often grow in large clusters, hanging down from the trees. Orchids of all these groups can be easily found both at the exhibition and in our photographs.

As we have already said, orchids have adapted to live in a wide variety of ecological niches and have spread throughout the globe. Except that Antarctica and the hottest deserts were bypassed. They grow not only in warm Australia, Africa, Southeast Asia, but also in forests of temperate latitudes.

The language of flowers is a language of symbols. The green orchid symbolizes harmony, freshness and relaxation. Violet - royalty, luxury and wealth. The white orchid signifies purity, innocence and faith. Blue is a sign of uniqueness and beauty. And the red orchid symbolizes passion, love and strong emotions.

The first work on the left is “Divine Fashion,” depicting a woman hopefully walking in a floral robe somewhere far, far away, into a prosperous future. The second composition is “Blanket with Orchids”. And this is true: in a transparent blanket draped over the figure of a standing woman, you can see the structure of orchid leaves. Here a special technique was used using a special chemical composition that dissolves the sheet but preserves the structure.

And now we are in the second pavilion under the glass dome, where the works are exhibited Kristen Alpaugh - an innovative botanical artist, fluent in unique forms of floristry, using innovative methods and approaches in this field. Her experimental work, combining natural beauty, fine art and high fashion, has graced the pages of The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Architectural Digest and Vogue. Five of her works are presented here, but not connected by a common composition.

Alpaw showcased her talents in HBO Max's Full Bloom in 2020 and presented her groundbreaking exhibition Flower Craft in 2022 at New York's Museum of Arts and Design.

In 2020, Kristen Alpaugh founded Haus of Stems, the world's first on-demand botanical art studio. This innovative business supplies luxurious flowers, hand-painted and adorned with FLWR PSTL's signature holographic finish, to florists and flower lovers throughout the United States and Canada.

In the enchanting new world of botanical art, Kristen Alpaugh and her FLWR PSTL brand create stories that awaken the senses, challenging viewers to navigate between the real and the subtle. Here are two more figures she created: a girl and a young man walking through an exhibition of orchids: he kept them on his jacket, and she kept them on peculiar tights.

Now we are invited to a long glass gallery, where we will be shown absolutely delightful compositions by another designer invited by the park - Hillary Taymur, representing the company Collina Strada. Based and manufactured in New York City, the iconic brand's staples transcend trends. Taimour's designs are imbued with fearless fluidity, reinventing classics and unexpected details. “Collina Strada” represents humor and youth. Here, in the gallery, together with the organizers of the exhibition, elegant semicircular and rectangular flower arches were installed, in which five conventional figures flaunt.

Season after season, the goal of “Collin Strad” remains the same: to encourage introspection through clothing. How to become the best version of yourself today? “Collina Strada” has rethought its shows. And now she opens her show of five paintings with the image of a female narrator.

Next is a model in a floral dress. We can assume that this is a hare, incredibly timid in such an unusual attire.

Now some alien in a spacesuit appeared before the audience, looking at the sky, waiting for a signal from there.

And then - a beautiful horse, with hair made of vines and a wide skirt made of huge leaves.

It is the toad with bags filled with orchids that needs her help.

Our journey through the exhibition is over. ZThe finishing rooms show not just individual flowers, but their huge compositions. The Dutch traveler and naturalist Jacob Breinius once said about orchids: “When creating them, nature must have been in a state of unbridled fun and put all its playfulness and coquetry into them. The flower can take the form of a bird, lizard, insect; may resemble a man, a woman, and sometimes even a clown who is trying his best to make a sad viewer laugh. It is designed in such a way that it is both fun and delightful.” And that’s why you won’t see sad faces at the exhibition.

And how can one not recall here the poems of the famous K. Balmont:

"I was in the tropics forests,
I was waiting to see orchids.
Oh those stems for sure snake,
sin on the petals. <…>
It's like someone's tender mouth
More tender than delirium fairy in love,
This is the smell of an orchid
Intoxicating, intoxicates, and drinks the will.”

It's time to go out.

Until next time!

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