Ever-Changing Orchid Show Highlights Endless Forms

Science and Nature


When positing the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin marveled at the “endless forms” found in the natural world, where plants and animals alike adapt to their surroundings in a dizzying array of varied morphology. At Selby Gardens, the botanically minded artists behind this year’s Orchid Show, aptly titled Endless Forms, find that same wonder within one taxonomical family. Open through November 25, the show celebrates the beauty and diversity of the orchid family through both a gorgeously redesigned Conservatory complete with living sculptures and a curated selection of scientific specimens on display in the Payne Mansion.

In the Conservatory, Selby Gardens’ living plant collection is on stunning display through a series of creative sculptural elements running through the space, each designed to keep the viewer’s mind on the concept of forms. Upon entering, “Van-brellas” tower above on bamboo stilts, the circular wooden hoops with chicken wire mesh housing epiphytic Vanda orchids that dangle like floral chandeliers. Emerging from behind the Van-brellas, the Ribbon arcs from the ground to snake through the canopy of the entire Conservatory like a blossoming rollercoaster track. Made of PVC panels and faux-moss, 180 feet of countless purple Phalaenopsis orchids and pink Guzmania bromeliads guide visitors from end to end of the exhibition.

In between, stop for the perfect picture under the similarly sculpted and tillandsia-adorned decorated Infinity Loop, placed over a quaint bridge and water feature combo. And keep an eye out for the cleverly created “Van-shrooms,” which turn “gobs” of blooming Vanda orchids and their tangling roots into birds-nest mushroom caps atop trunk-like plinths.

In addition to sculptural elements, orchids of all shapes, sizes and sorts are brought out from the eight greenhouses on the Selby Gardens campus to showcase the variety of the orchid family. These selections change on the regular, according to what’s in bloom and what looks good on any given day, so visitors who have already stopped by the Orchid Show this year have plenty reason to return. “It’s a constant revolving door,” says Addie Worth, a greenhouse horticulturalist with Selby Gardens. “Every day it changes.”

And don’t forget the Orchidarium, says Worth, hidden off to the side of the Conservatory and showing off a selection of Selby Gardens’ smaller orchid varieties, which might otherwise get lost in the big displays.

On the other side of campus, completing Endless Forms, Payne Mansion highlights the research side of the botanical equation, showing how scientists collect, study and order their specimens. In one room, see a series of “trifectas”—displays that incorporate herbarium specimens (pressed plants), spirit specimens (plants in liquid preservative) and sketches that include relevant details about the plant and its discovery and harvest. Also see rare botanical books on display and get a glimpse into 19th century botany. On the opposite side of the mansion, find a terrarium and an interactive digital display.

Endless Forms will be on display at Selby Gardens through November 25.

Pictured: "Endless Forms" at the 2018 Orchid Show. Photo by Matthew Holler.

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