By Susan McKee
Orchid festivals in the U.S. are in bloom. Orchids are the perfect winter flower. Prolific product of the tropics, whether grown in a greenhouse or “wild” in a rainforest, their colors, shapes and scents attract travelers.
Travelers can add an orchid festival to an existing itinerary – or opt for an orchid-centered tour. The choices this season are many.
*Underway now is the annual Orchid and Tropical Bonsai Show at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The show , ending at the finish of February, features hundreds of orchids, including selections from the Barbara Tisherman Slipper Orchid collection, curated in collaboration with the Orchid Society of Western Pennsylvania to be one of the world’s definitive slipper orchid resources.
*Missouri Botanical Garden’s annual orchid show runs through March 27, 2016, in St. Louis, Missouri. Showcased inside the Orthwein Floral Display Hall are rotating displays of hundreds of orchids from the garden’s permanent collection.
*The orchid show at the Chicago Botanic Garden runs from the middle of February through March 13, and showcases more than 10,000 orchids, all blooming at once.
*The Orchid Show celebrates its 40th year at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota, Florida, from Valentine’s Day through March 27. Thousands of orchids from throughout the tropics will be on display in the conservatory and more are available for purchase in the shop.
Originally the home of William and Marie Selby, the gardens are an urban, bay-front oasis showcasing a living collection of rare tropical plants. The Selby is also a leader in the study and conservation of plants, particularly epiphytes–plants adapted to live in the tree canopy, including orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads and ferns.
*Orchidelirium, the orchid show at the New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York, isn’t just about epiphytes. It’s the whole package: a journey through orchid collecting history playing out against a backdrop of thousands of orchids.
From February 27 through April 17, 2016, visitors can discover the far-flung adventures of orchid hunters swept up in 19th-century “orchidelirium”, when explorers risked life and limb to secure these flowers from jungles around the world. Then learn about NYBG’s efforts to rescue illegally collected orchids that have been seized at international borders. There also are dance performances, a poetry reading, orchid care demonstrations, and shopping.
*The 70th annual spring show of the San Diego County Orchid Society takes place March 11 through 13, 2016, in the Scottish Rite Center, San Diego, California.
*Houston’s Orchid Society will host its annual spring show and sale in the main lobby of the Houston (Texas) Museum of Natural Science April 2 and 3, 2016.
*Orchids in the Park, the summer show and sale of the San Francisco Orchid Society, takes place July 23 and 24, 2016, in the San Francisco (California) County Fair Building.
*To go all-in, look at tours offered by the Orchid Conservation Alliance. There are two this year – one to Europe and the other to Asia. The first, set for April 22 to May 1, 2016, focuses on “Orchids and Culture of Provence and the Périgord.” It includes orchids native to France plus (of course) wine, food, castles, caves, gardens, and more.
The second, “A Botanical Study Tour to North Sichuan“, takes place June 17 to 30, 2016. Southwest China is the global epicenter of several plant genera: Primula, rhododendron, and Cypripedium. The tour takes place in the mountains of Aba Tibetan Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. In addition to the orchids, the area is home to Tibetan and Qiang ethnic groups.
The Orchid Conservation Alliance was founded in 2006 to promote the conservation of orchids and orchid habitat around the world.
For more information on garden tourism, check out Road Trips for Gardeners.