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Behind the Beauty of Orchid Extravaganza

By Paul B. Redman, on February 15, 2013

The Orchid Chandelier at Longwood Gardens. Photo by Harold (Hank) Davis. The Orchid Chandelier at Longwood Gardens. Photo by Harold (Hank) Davis.

Our aspiration at Longwood Gardens is to create a place where our guests can take a deep breath and leave behind the stresses of our 21st century lives. This winter at Longwood, your escape is Orchid Extravaganza—a world filled with thousands of flowering orchids.

Some may wonder why we would choose to feature these amazing curiosities of nature during the coldest months of the year. The reason is simple: orchids are the rock stars of the plant kingdom. Well, they are at least one of the rock stars. The real reason for displaying orchids this time of year is that most orchid species are in peak flower from early January through late spring. Orchids can be found in most every climate of the world, but they are particularly bountiful in the tropics where the winter season brings rain, and with it lots of orchid flowers.

People have long held a fascination with orchids. During the grand age of plant exploration in the 19th century people collected them with a maddening frenzy, because the exotic flowers were like nothing ever seen before. Even more fascinating was their unique sexuality that titillated the Victorians. It’s all in the history books. Check it out sometime.

Today, people continue to be inspired by the exotic nature of orchids almost to a fault, because their beauty is deceivingly fragile. While it is true some orchids are finicky, many are not. Our Orchid Extravaganza display features orchids like Cymbidium, Oncidium, Phalaenopsis, and Dendrobium that I would encourage the novice gardener to experiment with and try at home. If you want to be daring, I challenge you to immerse yourself into our diverse orchid collection in our Orchid House. You will see an entire range of species, both common and rare, like no other place in the world. The orchids on display in our Orchid House are hand-picked daily from our vast collection behind the scenes.

In 2013—for the first time—we invite you to go beyond our garden gates and think about the beauty that exists on the other side of our works of art. Who are the artists behind everything that we do? This year we invite you to meet and celebrate the real geniuses of Longwood Gardens. Meet our orchid grower Lee in this video that gives you a glimpse of the beauty behind the scenes:


I know that I am probably biased, but I have to say that I think that this year’s Orchid Extravaganza is the very best ever. The breathtaking orchid chandelier suspended in our Exhibition Hall was designed, fabricated, and installed by the professionals of Longwood. I wish we could expose the layers of the orchid chandelier in a cross section that would show the sheer genius of engineering, artistry, and curation that makes Longwood great. The next time you visit, don’t hesitate to ask one of us “how did you do that?” You have my promise that we will take you beyond the garden gate to share the story of Longwood’s beauty.