Stop to Smell The Orchids at The Future of Orchid’s 28th Annual Display


Courtesy of The Smithsonian Gardens

By Carissa Remington

For the 28th year, multiple museums in Washington D.C. will be hosting The Future of Orchids: Conservation and Collaboration from January 27-April 28, to bring attention to their vast arrangements of orchids and artwork, and ensure the conservation of the orchids in the future. 

With a near record-breaking warmth on Friday, January 26-24, spring feels a lot closer than usual this year. In preparation for spring, the 28th annual exhibit has returned: The Future of Orchids: Conservation and Collaboration. The grand-opening for the curation was on Saturday, January 27, and it will remain open until Sunday, April 28. The exhibition is displayed in three individual locations: the United States Botanic Garden, the Smithsonian Gardens, and the Kogod Courtyard, between the National Portrait Gallery and the National American Art Museum. 

In honor of The Future of Orchids, the Smithsonian Gardens have expanded their own orchid collection to contain over 4,000 different species and varieties, making their collection one of the world’s most species-diverse collections. In an effort to broaden the research and awareness, the Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection is available as high-quality images on the Smithsonian Garden’s website. Not only were the plants photographed, but the Smithsonian Gardens Digitization Program Office (DPO) produced 3-D renderings of ten specific orchids.

Each location has created a unique display for this collaboration. The arrangements include cache pots that were created by Phaan Howng, a Baltimore-based multimedia artist, that are just as individualized as the orchids they hold. The Kogod Courtyard, located in the National Portrait Gallery, offers around 350 live orchids of approximately 200 different varieties. These arrangements were structured to convey central themes of orchid conservation and the future of orchids. 

This year, the exhibit was enhanced when they brought in Phaan Howng, who is known for her artistic exploration of the relationship between humans and nature, to design a multi-dimensional experience. The works now range from loaned and bought paintings, to pots and sculptures in hopes to assist audiences to imagine the future of the orchids. Phaan Howng had derived inspiration from the flowers and met with many experts to understand the orchids better because, as she said when talking with The Baltimore Sun, “They’re like the most interesting flower in the entire universe.”  

Orchids are a mysterious plant that cannot be limited. With an estimated 30,000 species, it is one of the most expansive families in the plant kingdom. Even more so, the patterns, colors, and aromas vary dramatically, according to Joy Columbus, the Smithsonian Gardens’ Director. The yearly exhibition was established to promote sustainability of orchid’s environments, and draw the public to learn more about the different institutions’ diverse collections. 

With spring around the corner, as nature gracefully returns, The Future of Orchids serves as an annual remembrance that without being mindful of nature conservation, there won’t be much left to share with the future generations.  

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