Orchid Mania 2009 at the Cleveland Botanical Garden: Back to Nature

Submitted by Evelyn Kiefer on Thu, 03/05/2009 - 00:07.

For a few hours last Sunday I escaped the bleak late winter landscape of Cleveland at the Cleveland Botanical Garden's annual event Orchid Mania. This year's theme is “orchids under glass.” In the past orchid displays were found all over the CBG building, but this year, for the most part, the orchid were confined to the Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glassouse within the Madagascar and Costa Rica exhibits. The orchids were arranged in a much more natural style than in past years too. They could be found clinging to trees, growing in the soil among tropical foliage and surrounded in moss in a spectacular arch over the bridge in the Costa Rica exhibit.

I was curious to see how the recession would effect Orchid Mania. The Cleveland Botanical Gardens had to postpone their spring floral show due to uncertain finances and it goes without saying that these are tough times for staging exhibitions. I wondered what effect would the economy have on an exhibition of plant specimens that have long been associated with conspicuous wealth and decadence. For example, Jay  Gould was one of the most fervent orchid collecters of the late 19th century. He built a glass house  for his collection that was probably larger than the glass house at the CBG on the grounds of Lyndhurst, his gothic style castle along the Hudson River.

Magnifying glasses placed through out the glass house were helpful for admiring every beautiful detail but were they also a nostalgic reminder of the orchid's status as a Victorian curiousity.

Orchid Mania 2009 was largely about the natural beauty of orchids and experiencing them in nature -- among singing birds, tropical mist and waterfalls, and plenty of their less showy botanical neighbors. This year's approach must have been the result  of cost cutting efforts, but visitors seemed to enjoy the experience just as much as in years past.

The path through the glass house was nearly impassable at times, blocked by crowds of visitors taking photographs and marveling at the hundreds of orchids that surrounded them.

The glass house seemed  to be populated with more birds than usual. 
Orchid Mania at CBG has been one of my favorite events in Cleveland since it began a few years ago.  The timing is always perfect, it comes at the end of winter when gardeners are most craving spring blooms. So often orchids seem very removed from their nature context. We see them in decorative pots in hotels and restaurants, and they are sold in grocery stores like boxes of chocolates and and other gifts. Orchid Mania is a rare opportunity to enjoy orchids in a natural setting Orchid Mania runs February 28 – March 29, 2009 and is free with admission to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

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