Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Love, Beauty, Fertility, Refinement, Thoughtfulness

Looking into Central Park from 79th Street and Fifth Avenue. 5:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017. An overcast and dull winter’s day in New York, warming up a bit (mid-30s).

I forget from year to year that January is a dull time around anyone’s social calendar for all the obvious reasons. No one wants to go out any more than they have to, and many who do (who have the opportunity) basically are heading for the airport for warmer climes or snow-covered mountains, depending. Things begin to warm up noticeably in February, even if the weather doesn’t. 
The New York Botanical Garden in a blanket of fresh snow following this weekend's snowfall.
However, Wednesday evening, the 8th of February, the New York Botanical Garden will host its 29th annual Orchid Dinner at the Plaza. This dinner is the kick-off event of the season, and without question the most beautiful dinner in New York, drawing the interior design and fashion community as well, such as Carolina Herrera, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Vera Wang, Isaac Mizrahi and Diane von Furstenberg.

This year’s Gala Chairmen are Vera Aryeh and Robert F. Gossett, Jr., Sharon and Bill Jacob, Susan and George Matelich, and Tina and Steven Swartz. The Chair is Clinton Smith (Editor in Chief, VERANDA) and the Decorations Chair is Carolyn Englefield, (Director of Decoration and Special Projects, VERANDA). The Honorary Chairs are Mary and Marvin Davidson, Kamie and Richard Lightburn, and Deborah and Charles Royce.
It was this dinner that caught my eye and raised my interest in this amazing perennial that can be found all over the world (except Antarctica). The orchid, to me, conveys a sense of specialness in these times. Since ancient times it has been so. It symbolizes Love, Beauty, Fertility, Refinement, Thoughtfulness.Plus charm. Chic.

I am not a horticulturalist or even a gardener, but I love plants and flowers. This began when I was in my early 30s and expanded when I moved to Southern California where beauty abounds in nature. As soon as the weather warms I get them started on my terrace. I always think of this as my little tribute to the beauty of LA. Meager but better than nothing.
A bride carrying a bouquet of Phalaenopsis orchids.
Now, I’m always amazed and pleased when someone sends me an orchid as a gift. Their elegance snazzes up the humble abode. Although up until recently, I thought all orchids were Phalaenopsis (which are also known as the “moth orchid” because its petals “resemble graceful moths in flight”).

Last September, a friend sent me a different specie that was a beauty and reminded me of a sail at sea (except it was green). I was amazed it was an orchid since it didn’t look like a Phalaenopsis or like any flowering plant I’d ever seen before. It was tall, and elegant and stalwart, like the sender. Coincidentally someone had also sent me a Phalaenopsis for my birthday two months before that was still looking good. The new one, the name of which I don’t know, spent three months with me.
A old friend of mine, Jane Dolan, who now lives in Mexico, collects orchids. Sometimes in her emails, she’ll enclose a photo of one. Since we both grew up in un-orchid country (Massachusetts -- and across the street from each other), I asked her what drew her to them.

Her answer: “My interest is just simply that they are beautiful. The wonderful thing about them is that the different orchids bloom at different times of the year. I try to obtain orchids that have a scent. Some have an incredible, sweet scent that can fill an area with subtle perfume as you walk among the trees. I love the different colors, and I have many in pots, and more on trees. I’m devoted to them.”
Jane's diverse collection of orchids ...
The Chinese have cultivated orchids for more than three millennia. It wasn’t until the 1600s that visitors to the Far East brought back orchids to Europe. By 1802 orchids they were being raised from seed and by 1856, the first cultivated hybrid was developed.
Landscapes, Flowers and Birds: Orchid, 1780, by Luo Ping (1733-1799).
At the 29th annual Orchid Dinner, I know I will see one table after another festooning, a magnificent showcase of orchid centerpieces created by the world’s leading designers of fashion, interior design, landscape, floral and architectural design. Also, during the cocktail hour guests partake in a sale of exceptional and rare orchids carefully selected by the curators from the New York Botanical Garden which has an amazing collection of orchids, more than 5000 plants.
Ralph Lauren Home Table, 2016.
Baccarat Table, 2016.
Cullman & Kravis, Inc. Table, 2016.
Mark D. Sikes Table, 2016.
The Plant Sale at the Mandarin Oriental, 2015.
The Orchid Dinner at The Rainbow Room, 2008.
David Easton Table, 2010.
All proceeds from the Dinner underwrite the development of the Garden’s orchid research collection, which helps maintain the highest horticultural standards of orchid conservation. In spite of strict international regulations, many wild orchids today are under severe threat of extinction from over-collection and destruction of their native habitats. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is an agreement between governments to ensure that international trade of wild plant and animal specimens (and products made from them) does not threaten their survival.

For additional information and to purchase tickets, contact Anita Hall at 914.579.1000 or e-mail NYBGEvents@buckleyhallevents.com.
Roric Tobin for B&T Global, 2016.
A table from the 2015 Orchid Dinner.
Place cards from the 2010 dinner.
A table scene from the 2010 dinner.
Vicente Wolf Table, 2010.
Philip Gorrivan's table design in 2009.
Ten days after the Orchid Dinner on February 18th, the New York Botanical Garden celebrates its 15th year of spectacular exhibitions with The Orchid Show: Thailand designed by Christian Primeau.  Mr. Primeau oversees the extensive tropical/subtropical plant collections which are housed in 11 different environments in the Enid Haupt ConservatoryIt is “an homage to the wealth of orchids, acclaimed tropical gardens, renowned orchid breeding and a rich cultural history” of Thailand, home to more than 1200 native orchid species. The main sponsors of this year’s show are Deborah and Charles Royce.

The show will run through April 9th and will feature thousands of orchids in classic Thai garden setting. The grand centerpiece of the design will be the façade of a sala, a traditional pavilion used for shade and relaxation, with a signature sweeping gabled roofline festooned with exquisite orchids. Thailand today is the biggest exporter of tropical orchids in the world.
Last year's exhibition in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. This year's show celebrates its 15th year at The New York Botanical Garden with an homage to the wealth of orchids and rich cultural history of Thailand.

Orchid Ball photos by Cutty McGill and BFA

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