Orchid Daze at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Annual flower event benefits from vertical displays, allowing closer looks.

The annual show, which opens today and runs through April, gives viewers an up-close look at orchids by perching the dainty flower on walls some eight-and-a-half feet tall. Visitors to the Fuqua Orchid Center are greeted by soaring screens covered in hybrid dendrobium and phalaenopsis orchids and tropical plants, replicating the banners traditionally hung in the foyer.

“It’s all like a graphic when it’s done, except you are painting with orchids and tropical foliage,” said exhibitions manager Cathleen Cooke.

Cooke said she was inspired to launch a vertically-themed “Orchid Daze” by the work of French botanist Patrick Blanc, who has pioneered the use of vertical gardening, and artist Richard Serra, known for curving steel wall sculptures. The ABG worked with designer Tres Fromme, of Texas-based Mesa Design Group, to merge the two themes by creating maze-like walls of orchids and mirrors. While the ABG’s orchids are typically displayed in beds or behind dividing walls, many of these flowers are now up close and personal.

“Instead of looking down at orchids, they’ll be looking up at them,” Fromme said. “It’s like orchids in your face.”

The challenge of launching a vertical gardening show was mostly technical, they say. Cooke’s team searched for just the right systems that could support the orchids while ensuring the flowers would thrive. The crew found their answer in modular systems, which can be used in the future for any number of displays.

Fromme noted that the vertical gardening theme is in line with the ABG’s efforts to use new planes for planting. He pointed to the living green roof over the new Hardin Visitor Center and the now-in-development edible garden, which will feature a wall of herbs and more to be unveiled this spring.

By showcasing the orchids in column and wall-like displays, “Orchid Daze” might seem to be sparser than in years past, but the garden crew used more plants in this year’s show than in previous years. Roughly 1,000 hybrid orchids were brought in for the exhibit, in addition to the 10,000 orchid specimens grown as part of the ABG’s permanent collection, organizers said.

The result is an exhibition of clean lines that echo the arching structure of the orchids themselves. Devoted garden fans might also notice this year’s show is all about the flowers, instead of how they are paired with art and sculpture.

“We’ve been bringing in objects and art for the past few years,” Cooke said. “People responded well to that, but we wanted to do a horticulture-only show.”

And with orchids hanging within one’s careful reach, “it’s a little bit more intimate of an experience,” she said.

Exhibit preview

Orchid Daze: Towers of Flowers

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday through Sunday. Today - April 11. Garden admission is $15 for adults, $12 seniors and children 3-17, and free to children younger than 3 and Atlanta Botanical Garden members. 1345 Piedmont Ave., NE, Atlanta. 404-876-5859, atlantabotanicalgarden.org .

Check the Website for details on guided tours, orchid market weekends, orchid care clinics and other activities.

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