30 March 2012
Stay tuned in April for Part Two. I’ll post additional photographs of the International Orchid Show at Longwood Gardens. Meanwhile, let me know which one of the seven is your favorite.
During a visit to Longwood Gardens in January to see their annual Orchid Extravaganza (those photographs can be seen on two of my posts; Part One here and Part Two here), I promised myself that I would return between March 23-25 for the additional feature of the International Orchid Show. This past Sunday I kept that pledge with quiet enthusiasm. I was not prepared for the experience that followed.
I hope that my photographs and words give a fraction of the visual landscape created by orchid devotees who competed in this forum. Truly, my three hours of extreme exhilaration were matched by my three hours of photographing the exhibitors’ entries.
Typically, crowds grow hour by hour and I wanted to be an early bird. But another reason pushes me to arrive at the opening time, you can only use a tripod in the Conservatory until noon. While it was a small group of us, most were armed with cameras and tripods–photographers-at-large (three and a half hours later there was hardly a space left in the parking lot).
The entryway of the Conservatory was planted with blue-purple spikes of Pride-of-Maderia Echium, which were apt escorts into International Orchid Show. Immediately, I began to think about the dynamism of flowers as one of nature’s artistic achievements. Gazing into the main hallway, I could see the triumphant displays ahead of me.
But nothing was as electrifying as moving up close to each entry. The rich vision continued multiplying as I inched my way through the displays. Some were simplistic, some ornate, some tranquilizing, some breathtaking, some enormously captivating. Just as elation filled the spirit, another wondrous flower engaged the senses.
The camera’s lens allowed for an even greater appreciation of what was in front of me. Every orchid required thoughtful problem solving: which angle to use, was the lighting suitable, how to avoid the tags, could I get a clean shot of the entire orchid, did I want to feature only a segment of these tropical wonders, what was in the background, and on and on. It slowed my pace, building a treasure trove of images to ponder.
Since this show was a competition, each local or regional or national or international orchid society had its own exhibition space. Tables and shelves were lined with the most sumptuous of colors, shapes, sizes and varieties of orchids. It was a rare opportunity to bathe the senses in explosive and lavish beauty–beauty of the boldly delicate, the exotic and noble, plants with unique qualities. Each is nurtured for its genuine visual appeal or difficulty in cultivation, maintaining and growing.
Some of the varieties included dendrobium (a diverse group of orchids that is popular because its flowers can last several weeks), paphiopedilum (the lady’s slipper that is semi-terrestrial, originates from the Far East, and can be easily grown in the home), phalaenopsis (known as the moth orchid and considered the best orchid to grow in the home).
Every time I rounded a corner or completed a line of displays, more appeared. It was too good to be actually happening. Everyone was smiling and wide-eyed. Everyone was intensely absorbed by the magnitude of floral bounty before them.
As I pushed the door open to leave the exhaustingly-sensational orchid show, in the distance tolled the twenty-five tubular carillon bells that are housed in Longwood’s Chimes Tower. Since my visual senses were overloaded, it seemed an appropriate send-off to spark my auditory ones.
As I drove home, I was enraptured by the visual memories that kept circling through the synapses. Even in my emotionally-spent condition, I was elated that I had witnessed such a partnership between human nature and Mother Nature. Here devotees worked hours upon hours to hand-raise their beauties. The care, feeding and maintenance is no small feat. In horticulture the orchid and its performance are one of the most spectacular visions that our eyes can receive.
There is no way to quantify the experience. The photographs that I cherish from this show are but a slice of the real thing. The International Orchid Show was arresting in its generous tribute to a fragile plant that continues to satiate its viewers.
Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog. If you are interested in the American Orchid Society, you can check out their Website here.