Thursday, April 9, 2009

NYBG Orchid Show: a modern makeover


It started with Dale Chihuly's glittering glass sculptures in the Enid A. Haupt glasshouse. This past summer, Henry Moore's heavy metal punctuated turf and framed views. This winter, it was Burle Marx, Brazilian landscape modernist designer, who brought the latest wave of haute art to the epicenter of haute horticulture.


My best friend, Janelle Garguilo, a compelling graphic and interior designer, had the brilliant plan of going to the Bronx Zoo with my mother and my nephew.  Me? I invited myself.  But today was a wintry slap in the face: it was just too cold to watch the lions freezing on the cement savannah.  Instead, we detoured across the rugged safari of Southern Boulevard to the Enid A. Haupt conservatory for a warmer stroll through the last week of the NYBG Orchid Show: Brazilian Modern

As a lover of art, I find it so progressive that the New York Botanical Garden, that dusty New York institution, has taken these "risks" to allure visitors with a quality blend of plants and art. It only makes sense, and I wish they had done it sooner. 

The marriage of art and horticulture has a long history.  To really know a garden is to look at it as you would any expression of art. Truth be told, so many horticulturists and landscape designers I've met were previously trained as artists, and that experience is integral to their successful designs: Lynden Miller as a painter, and Jeff Mendoza as a sculptor, just to name some of NYC's contemporary finest. 

As the last reserve of orchids are removed and restrung, a few highlights before this experience fades:

How's this for a hanging basket?  Wow! 
I really love seeing horticulture pushed to an extreme like this!  The monotone Phalenopsis dangle just as they should, and the bright green pitchers of the Nepenthes that are tucked in add some serious interest. And what about that unknown aroid spreading it's HUGE leaves like it would below the canopy of a tropical rainforest? I'm woozy.  
This gives the container-planting philopsophy of "thrillers, fillers, and spillers" whole new perspective!

My nephew, Nick, . . .
 . . . was pretty impressed by the wall of pure white Phalenopsis.
I have to admit, so was I.  The is something to be said about seeing plants en masse -- it is candy that only your eyes can devour and taste.

I am always inspired by the color combinations that Fran and Marc mastermind.  Again, true artistry must exist for a successful planting display. My eyes always zero in on the subtleties of the tones and ranges of colors that are combined. 
Don't think you need a degree to put together a great combo. All you need is a personal aesthetic that will guide your visceral responses as you create a floral or textural vignette. Play time! To start playing with great color combos, all you need is to observe the palette and pull those colors out.  

Look here: the inflorescences of the bromeliad in the lower right are long gone, but the bright green ovaries and the orange stems and pedicels are a natural nod to the Pollock-splashes on the leaves of the Croton (a member of the Euphorbiaceae, my favorite!). It just feels right!
People may live in flats, but flowers? 
When I saw these plant apartments, I thought, hmmm, with eyebrow raised.  
Didn't love it, but liked it. Definitely a different way of adding height, using undervalued vertical space, and simply causing surprise.

Leave it to me to be shocked and moved by anything other than an orchid at an orchid show:
Look at this color! I practically warmed by hands by it!  As fire-red as your imagination can allow, I was so in love with the origami lobster claw cascade. This is one hot Tillandsia!
The clean lines, sharp architecture, and Art Deco repetition of Tillandsia dyeriana is just my style. It just might be my newest obsession.  Although, bromeliads have always been high up on my list.

So, parabĂ©ns, NYBG!  Another successful blend of art and plants.  Who's next? I dare you to give me Gaudi!

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