NYBG’s 20th annual orchid show is inspired by ancient Chinese garden design

February 15, 2023

Photos courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical Garden’s treasured orchid show returns this month for its 20th year. Designed by guest artist Lily Kwong, The Orchid Show: Natural Heritage transforms the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory with thousands of orchids and a fantastical landscape inspired by ancient Chinese garden design and artistic principles. Tickets are on sale now for the show, which opens Saturday, February 18, and runs through April 23.

The intricate designs found in the exhibition are inspired by classic paintings of Chinese mountainscapes passed down through Kwong’s family from Shanghai. Using a diverse selection of orchids, which include rare and notable species, Kwong’s mountainous designs meld together ecology, culture, and fantasy.

“At a time when we are all starved for connection, the prayer of this installation is to offer a sense of community, reciprocity, and grounding into ancient wisdom and traditions that have guided us for millennia,” Kwong said in a statement.

“In traditional Chinese culture, flowers are the carriers of rich cultural information and have been revered by scholars for representing integrity, peace, and refinement. These beautiful and often elusive flowers invoke poetry and admiration, inspire entire scientific careers, and are a critical part of our ecosystems. Orchids are the perfect plant to draw people into the complexities of our relationships with the natural world and our vital roles in nourishing those connections.”

Kwong worked alongside horticulturists and NYBG exhibitions staff to find and assemble different assortments of orchids native to Asian countries. The flowers seen in the exhibition are meant not only to be visually stunning but also evoke emotions within visitors, inspiring them to “reflect on their own plant heritage and ancestry,” according to a press release.

“We are thrilled to have Lily Kwong join us as the guest designer for The Orchid Show, sharing her artistic insight and perspective with our audiences,” Jennifer Bernstein, CEO and The William C. Steere Sr. President of the garden, said.

“Orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants and the second most diverse plant family in the world. Lily’s meditative and captivating designs will reveal the importance of plants in reconnecting people to nature and as a powerful source of healing and self-discovery.”

Known for her thoughtful combination of horticulture with urban design, climate awareness, urban agriculture, and wellness, Kwong’s main goal in her work is to reconnect viewers with nature. Kwong has worked on a number of public art pieces in New York City, including botanical installations on the High Line and Grand Central Terminal.

On a selection of nights during The Orchid Show, guests ages 21 and over can experience “Orchid Nights,” with live music and a Chinese calligraphy and ink brush painting workshop, as well as drinks and food available for purchase.

Tickets are available for purchase here.


Photos courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden

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