Everything’s Coming Up Orchids At Smithsonian’s Spring Show

Orchids on display at Washington, DC’s Hirshhorn Museum

Every spring, the Smithsonian Gardens and United States Botanic Garden mount a spectacular orchid show for the public. The collaborative exhibition alternates between the two venues and provides different ways by which to appreciate the exquisite flowers. This year’s show is particularly striking because it is housed in the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum whose modern architecture provides a whole new perspective on the exotic blooms.

Guarianthe aurantiaca ‘Kitty’

This is the first time the exhibition has been held at the contemporary museum. Titled orchids: A MOMENT, the display is housed in a curved gallery created by the Hirshhorn’s own designers and is composed of random-shaped cubbyholes, each featuring a single orchid species. The artistic structure occupies the better part of the museum’s main lobby and allows visitors to move around the display at random while experiencing their own personal ‘moment’.

Rhyncholaeliocattleya Memoria Grant Eichler ‘Lenette’

As I toured the modernist structure, I couldn’t help but appreciate the forms, textures and colors of the orchids for their aesthetic value, displayed as they were like fine objects of art. Showcased in their individual white boxes, the flowers are strikingly beautiful on their own while also presenting interesting combinations as a group.

I love how the boxes’ clean lines perfectly frame the roots, leaves, stems and flowers of the plants while the white paint makes the colors pop.

Miltoniopsis hybrid

According to the Hirshhorn website, there are over 100 different orchids represented, all of which have been selected from the Smithsonian Gardens and U.S. Botanic Garden collections. One of the ‘orchid interpreters’ explained to me that the display is changed every two weeks, making for a new experience almost every time you visit.

Dendrobium utopia ‘Messenger’

Since 1974, the Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection (SGOC) has grown from five plants to over 8,000 specimens. An invaluable resource for educational programs, exhibitions, and scientific research, it is maintained in the Smithsonian Gardens Greenhouse Facility in Suitland, Maryland by staff, interns, and volunteers.

Maxillaria sp.

The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is the oldest botanic garden in North America. Its main mission is to highlight the diversity of plants worldwide, of which orchids make up the most significant group.

Phaleonopsis hybrid novelty

Angraecum sesquipedale ‘Winter White’ x A. sesquipedale var. bosseri ‘Summertime Dream”


The exhibit includes a series of time-lapse videos embedded in the structure that show orchids in the process of blooming. The continuous show flows across five monitors interspersed among the flowers.

orchids: A MOMENT is on view at the Hirshhorn in Washington, DC through May 14, 2017. For more information on the exhibit, click here for the Hirshhorn website. For a detailed chart of this week’s display, click here for the Smithsonian gardens website.


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