Step into a ‘Kaleidoscope’ of color at this year’s New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show

February 12, 2020

Photo courtesy of New York Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical Garden’s popular orchid show will return for its 18th season this Saturday with a special exhibit from “floral designer to the stars” Jeff LeathamThe Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope employs the artist’s love of color, transforming various galleries with thousands of orchids and their own color schemes. Highlights of the very-Instagrammable show include a kaleidoscopic tunnel of lights, a 10-foot tall mirrored orchid sculpture set above a water fountain, and a series of yellow and orange orchid arches.

Jeff stands next to the “Jeff Leatham Orchid,” which the NYBG named for him. Photos by 6sqft

Jeff Leatham has counted among his clients Sofia Vergara, Cher, and Oprah Winfrey. He is the artistic director of The Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris and has studios at the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center and the
Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. On his website, he notes that his floral sculptures are often compared to modern art, so it makes sense that NYBG saw an opportunity to collaborate with him on a show that creates an entirely new visitor experience.

Top two photos courtesy of New York Botanical Garden; bottom photo by 6sqft

The layout and path of this year’s show are different than in previous years as the historic palm dome of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory is currently undergoing a restoration (to be reopened this May). Therefore, the show begins with a big “wow” moment, where in past years this was saved for the finale.

Jeff says that when he’s approaching a project, he thinks first about color, then texture, and finally flower type. Therefore, for the orchid show, he wanted to create individual color experiences within each gallery. He also thought about texture and fragrance to provide a “full sensory experience.”

Photos by 6sqft

The first room is supposed to feel like “moving through a meadow.” Tall grasses, green and white cymbidiums, gardenias, and orange blossoms set a perfect backdrop for the orchids.

Photos by 6sqft

There are not many orchids in the desert gallery, but there is an orchid plant that grows in the African desert, which shows the plant’s adaptability. “They’re found on every continent except Antarctica, and yet some are so rare that they grow in one single place,” the NYBG’s CEO and President Carrie Rebora Barratt tells us. Moreover, “there are more than 30,000 naturally occurring species and over 100,000 man-made hybrids, which makes orchids one of the largest families of flowering plants.”

Photo by 6sqft

Jeff is a big lover of bamboo, and to highlight the colorful nature of this show, he chose to incorporate tall, painted stalks throughout the galleries. In the desert, for example, he chose one of his favorite hues, which he says is reminiscent of Yves Klein blue.

Photos by 6sqft

In addition to painting bamboo, Jeff also chose to paint some of the accent walls of the exhibit to help the flowers pop. Above, the curved wall was painted a soft grey.

The tunnel serves as a transition from the desert gallery to the rainforest. It is a true kaleidoscope of colors and a testament to Jeff’s belief in the importance of lighting.

Photos by 6sqft

At first, the columns in the area were disjointing, but by covering them in orchids, they became an entrance to the rainforest house. This gallery has the humid climate that orchids most typically thrive in, so it’s the perfect place to showcase how they actually grow in the wild, attaching to larger plants.

Photos by 6sqft

Jeff calls the next room “rise and shine,” with the yellow and orange orchid arches feeling like a sunrise or sunset. When they reflect in the pool it creates a full-circle effect.

Photos by 6sqft

The final room is highlighted by NYBG’s skywalk, and for this, Jeff wanted to capture the verticality of the space, created a canopy of tall bamboo covered in orchids. At night, all of the bamboo columns are lit. For that matter, Jeff encourages visitors to also see the show at night since the lighting creates a completely different feel.

That said, Orchid Evenings will run on select days throughout the show and will have music, a cash bar, and light bites from the Bronx Night Market. You can buy tickets here and find out more details about the Orchid Show here

Photos taken by the New York Botanical Garden and 6sqft, as noted

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