Fluttering Flowers
July 1, 2019 – 12:08 am | Comments Off on Fluttering Flowers

Regular readers of this blog know that your Road Trips Gardener considers butterflies as fluttering flowers (of course, they’re privileged visitors to gardens as well).
There are all sorts of places to see butterflies. Some botanical …

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Orchids – A View from the East

Submitted by on December 16, 2010 – 10:53 pmOne Comment
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‘Orchids – A View from the East’ opens January 29, 2011, at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and runs through April 24, 2011.

This is more than just a flower exhibit, Road Trips Gardeners. Orchids have been a part of Chinese culture for many centuries, permeating Chinese history, legends, literature, and art. Since ancient times, orchids have been celebrated in China for their beauty and fragrance, and appreciated as symbols of nobility, friendship, and refinement. The orchid displays in this exhibit are interpretations of these themes.

This reverence for orchids expresses itself in many ways, from the contemplation of a single plant to an enthusiasm for color, new forms, and mass display. Age-old traditions have evolved into the extravagances of the contemporary Asian orchid world.

The Chinese philosopher Confucius compared the virtuous man to an orchid. Echoing this thought, Chinese artists sometimes placed orchids in their work to evoke the Confucian qualities of humility, integrity, refinement—in fact, all the virtues of a perfectly cultured gentleman and scholar.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the body is a small universe containing an array of opposing forces—yin/yang, cold/warm, passive/active, and more. Medicines, often including plants and herbs, balance those oppositional forces. Orchids are essential ingredients in many Chinese medicines that are still used today.

The oldest Chinese pharmaceutical text, Shen Nong’s Materia Medica [Shen Nong bencao jing], lists 364 plant, animal, and mineral substances and their medicinal properties. It includes orchids such as various Bletilla and Dendrobium species.

Today, the world of orchids is one of color and excitement. Orchid cultivation has become an international industry in which China and many other parts of Asia compete. Orchids that originated in all parts of the world are now grown in mass quantities in Asia.

Leading the way is Taiwan, which is unrivaled in Phalaenopsis orchid cultivation and marketing. By making these blooms at once more extravagant and more available, Taiwan’s orchid breeders have changed the way people around the world see orchids. The annual Taiwan International Orchid Show is an eye-dazzling spectacle of horticultural showmanship.

For the last 17 years, the Smithsonian Gardens and the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) have cooperated to present the annual orchid exhibition. The two institutions share plants and resources, and alternate planning and hosting the exhibit. The Smithsonian Gardens curates a diverse collection of close to 9,000 live orchid plants, many of which will be displayed in “Orchids: A View from the East”.

This exhibition is presented by the Smithsonian Gardens, United States Botanic Garden, Smithsonian Office of Exhibits Central and Office of Facilities Engineering and Operations, and National Museum of Natural History.

(Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Natural History)

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