New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (2024)

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New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (1)

Table of contents

  • New York Botanical Gardens Orchids and The Orchid Show
    • Gardeners Know the Dirt: New York Botanical Gardens Orchid Show
      • New York Botanical Gardens
      • The Orchid Show
      • Orchid Characteristics
      • Growing orchids
      • More Gardeners Know all the Dirt Articles

Gardeners Know the Dirt: New York Botanical Gardens Orchid Show

The New York Botanical Gardens Orchids show was another oasis for me when we lived in Manhattan. As it is, I am a sucker for botanical gardens, and this is one of the best. “Established in 1891, The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) is distinguished by the beauty of its landscape, collections, and gardens, and the scope and excellence of its programs in horticulture, education, and science.”

New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (2)

New York Botanical Gardens

In 1888 Nathaniel Lord Britton and his wife, Elizabeth, both notable botanists, visited the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, near London, England. Inspired, they wanted to bring a botanical garden to New York, to enhance public knowledge of plants and have a place for their own research and study in botany. They wanted a great garden such as the one they visited in London, complete with rare specimens and access to the public.

The northern half of Bronx Park was chosen for the location, due to the terrain, freshwater, gorge, and old-growth forest. The picturesque and natural features were the perfect place to plant the 250-acre garden.

Today the garden is a National Historic Landmark, and the largest botanic garden in any city in the United States. Now it includes fifty specialty gardens and collections. There are more than one million plants among the gardens, visited each year by more than one million visitors.

Structures in the NYBG include the Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections and the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the nation’s premier Victorian-style glasshouse. Visitors can experience the award-winning Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, one of the world’s most sustainable rose gardens; the Native Plant Garden, displaying the diversity of northeastern North American plants; and 30,000 distinguished trees, many more than 200 years old.

Source: “Mission and Overview,” New York Botanical Garden, accessed November 3, 2022,

The Orchid Show

Designer Jeff Leatham’s Bold and Colorful Vision

New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (7)
New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (8)
New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (9)

In 2022 the gardens displayed The Orchid Show, a dazzling exhibit featuring the floral creations of famed artistic director of the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris and floral designer to the stars, Jeff Leatham. In its nineteenth showing, the exhibit was displayed in the historic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Additionally, a perfect location for the New York Botanical Gardens Orchids.

The conservatory was transformed by “Leatham’s bold and colorful vision . . . into a different color experience and visual effect, like the turn of a kaleidoscope.” Visitors viewed “Orchid towers of orange, yellow, and green, undulating fields of white, and overhead plumes of purple, together with artistic embellishments and a kaleidoscopic tunnel of lights.

In addition, view the Fine Art Photography Collection featuring the Orchids by Eugene L Brill here.

Source: “The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope,” New York Botanical Garden, accessed November 3, 2022,

Orchid Characteristics

New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (10)

Orchid flowers are renowned for their intricate beauty, diversity, and widespread popularity among flower enthusiasts and collectors. They belong to the Orchidaceae family, which is one of the largest and most diverse families of flowering plants, with around 25,000 to 30,000 species and countless hybrids and cultivars. Orchids can be found in nearly every corner of the world, except Antarctica.

Here are some key characteristics and aspects of orchid flowers:

  1. Diversity of Shapes and Sizes: Orchids exhibit an astounding range of shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. Their flowers can be as small as a grain of rice or as large as a dinner plate. The variety of orchid species ensures that there’s an orchid for nearly every taste.
  2. Unique Structure: Orchid flowers have a distinctive structure (complex structure ) that sets them apart from other flowers. They typically have three outer sepals and three inner petals. One of the petals is modified into a specialized structure known as the lip or labellum, which often serves as a landing platform for pollinators.
  3. Color Variability: Orchids showcase a stunning array of colors, including shades of white, pink, purple, red, orange, and even green and blue. Some orchid species even exhibit multiple colors within a single flower.
  4. Variety of Patterns: Many orchid flowers display intricate patterns, spots, stripes, and other markings on their petals and lips. These patterns often play a role in attracting specific pollinators.
  5. Adaptations for Pollination: Orchids have evolved various strategies to attract specific pollinators, which can range from insects to birds. The methods of pollination for orchids are incredibly diverse. Some orchids produce nectar to attract pollinators, while others use mimicry, deception, or even mechanisms that physically attach pollen to visiting insects.
  6. Reproductive Adaptations: Orchids have evolved various reproductive strategies, some of which are highly specialized. Many orchids have developed intricate mechanisms to ensure pollination, often relying on specific pollinators such as bees, moths, butterflies, or birds. Some orchids produce deceptive pheromones or mimic the appearance of female insects to attract their male counterparts for pollination.
  7. Epiphytic Habit: Many orchids are epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants, often in trees, rather than in the soil. An epiphyte is a plant or plant-like organism that grows on the surface of another plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water (in marine environments) or from debris accumulating around it. The plants on which epiphytes grow are called phorophytes. However, they have adapted to this lifestyle by developing specialized aerial roots that help them absorb moisture and nutrients from the air and rainwater.
  8. Cultivation: Orchids are popular choices for both indoor and outdoor cultivation. However, they can be more challenging to grow than typical houseplants due to their specific requirements for light, humidity, temperature, and air circulation. Different orchid species have different care needs, so it’s essential to research the specific requirements of the orchid you’re growing. Many enthusiasts engage in orchid cultivation, and hybridization has led to the creation of countless stunning orchid varieties.
  9. Symbolism and Cultural Significance: Orchids have been revered for centuries in various cultures around the world. Orchids have carried various symbolic meanings throughout history and across cultures. They are often associated with beauty, luxury, and love. For instance, in ancient Greece, orchids were linked to virility, and in Victorian times, they were considered a symbol of refinement and rare beauty.
  10. Threats and Conservation: Due to their popularity, some orchid species are threatened by habitat loss, over-collection, and illegal trade. Some orchid species are endangered due to habitat destruction, overcollection, and illegal trade. Finally, conservation efforts are in place to protect these unique plants and their ecosystems.
New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (11)
New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (12)
New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (13)

Whether you’re an avid gardener, a botany enthusiast, or someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, orchid flowers offer a captivating and diverse world to explore. Above all, their intricate designs and fascinating reproductive strategies make them a subject of ongoing scientific research and a source of wonder for many.

Additionally, Browse Orchid Books that showcase the New York Botanical Gardens Orchids here.

Growing orchids

Growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa, my dad was an enthusiastic orchid grower. Most of his orchid were kept in glass houses, but occasionally be brought them into the house. Above all, the air in Johannesburg has zero humidity, not ideal for growing orchids. So, as a compromise, my dad’s orchids were hung above the bathtub in our bathroom, the most humid spot in the house. Enjoying a bath and looking up at the orchids were heaven!

New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (14)
New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (15)
New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (16)

Growing orchids can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby, but it’s important to note that orchids are a diverse group of plants with varying care requirements.

Here are some general guidelines to help you get started with growing orchids:

  1. Choose the Right Orchid: There are thousands of orchid species and hybrids, each with its own specific care requirements. Some popular orchids for beginners include Phalaenopsis (moth orchids), Cattleya, Dendrobium, and Oncidium. Additionally, research the specific needs of the orchid you choose.
  2. Light Requirements: Orchids require the right amount of light. Most orchids prefer bright, indirect light. A windowsill with filtered sunlight or an east-facing window is often suitable. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can scorch the leaves.
  3. Temperature: Different orchids have different temperature preferences, but in general, most orchids thrive in daytime temperatures between 65-80°F (18-27°C) and nighttime temperatures that are slightly cooler. Many orchids benefit from a temperature drop at night, which can encourage blooming.
  4. Humidity: Orchids typically prefer higher humidity levels than the average indoor environment provides. Using a humidity tray, placing a humidifier nearby, or grouping your orchids together can help maintain the required humidity levels.
  5. Planting Medium: Orchids usually don’t grow in regular potting soil. Instead, they often require a well-draining, orchid-specific potting mix. Popular options include bark, sphagnum moss, perlite, and coconut coir. Repot your orchid every 1-2 years to refresh the potting medium and prevent root overcrowding. Shop Orchid Potting Medium here.
  6. Watering: Orchids are sensitive to overwatering. Watering frequency depends on factors like the type of orchid, the potting medium, and the humidity levels. Water the orchid when the top inch of the potting mix feels dry but avoid letting it dry out completely. It’s often better to water less frequently than too often.
  7. Fertilizing: Orchids require nutrients for healthy growth and blooming. Use a balanced orchid fertilizer that’s diluted to half or a quarter of the recommended strength. During the growing season (usually spring and summer), fertilize your orchids about every 2-4 weeks. Reduce or stop fertilizing during the dormant period. Shop Orchid Fertilizers here.
  8. Air Circulation: Good air circulation is important to prevent fungal and bacterial infections. Ensure that your orchids have proper ventilation and avoid crowding them too closely together.
  9. Pest and Disease Control: Keep an eye out for common orchid pests such as aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. Regularly inspect your plants to catch any issues early. If you notice pests or signs of disease, treat them promptly with appropriate methods.
  10. Blooming and Rest Periods: Orchids have natural growth and rest periods. After blooming, some orchids need a period of reduced watering and cooler temperatures to encourage new growth and future blooms.
New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (17)
New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (18)
New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (19)

Finally, remember that each type of orchid may have specific care requirements, so it’s important to research the specific needs of the orchids you’re growing. Joining local orchid societies or online forums can also be a great way to learn from experienced growers and get advice tailored to your specific situation. In conclusion, with patience and proper care, you can enjoy the beauty of orchids in your home.

New York Botanical Gardens Orchids • The Wannabe Naturalist ® (20)

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