Flowers and Females

Selby Gardens Celebrates 45 Years with a Special Orchid Show

The anniversary show will spotlight the accomplishments of women in the field of botany.

By Kay Kipling October 5, 2020

Orchids and other flowers will fill Selby Gardens' Tropical Conservatory for a 45th anniversary show.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens marks the 45th anniversary of its official opening with a special orchid show that pays tribute to the Gardens’ founder and also spotlights the accomplishments of women who have helped to make Selby what it is today.

Selby hosts an orchid show every fall at its downtown Sarasota campus. This year’s, on view Oct. 10-Nov. 29, is titled Women Breaking the Glasshouse Ceiling, and combines a display of living orchids in the Tropical Conservatory with an exhibition of orchid-related treasures from the Gardens’ collections in the Museum of Botany & the Arts.

“It gives us a fitting platform to share the stories of the women scientists who have made invaluable contributions to Selby Gardens and to the scientific study and conservation of plants worldwide,” said Jennifer Rominiecki, president and CEO at Selby Gardens, in a press release announcing the show. The timing also coincides with the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote, so the Tropical Conservatory will showcase orchids in the symbolic colors of the Suffragettes: purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, green for hope, and gold for light and life. Kinetic planters will set the orchids in motion, and architectural motifs from the 1920s, along with period music, will round out the experience.

Marie Selby, who loved flowers.

Meanwhile, in the museum’s north gallery, rare books and prints emphasize the work of some of the finest female botanical artists to have captured the beauty of orchids. Botanical illustration was an entry point for females to go into science in the Victorian era, according to Jeannie Perales, who curated the show with co-curator David Berry. The south gallery will highlight contributions of women to botanical science, including the work of female staff and volunteers at the gardens.

Besides living flowers, the show will also highlight botanical drawings and illustrations.

Orchids and roses will also fill the Selby House on the downtown campus to mark the 100th anniversary of the purchase of the property by William and Marie Selby. The rose was one of Marie’s favorite flowers.

An additional orchid display will be on display at Selby’s companion campus at Osprey's Historic Spanish Point, tying to Mrs. Bertha Palmer, who established a winter estate on that property in 1910.

Mrs. Bertha Palmer, who had her own flowers planted at today's Historic Spanish Point.

Virtual programming related to the exhibit is scheduled as well, including a botanical briefing with botanists Dr. Sally Chambers and Elizabeth Gandy, moderated by Perales, at noon Oct. 21; and two historical briefings, one with HSP’s vice president, John McCarthy, at noon Nov. 18, and the other with botanical artist Olivia Braida, at noon Dec. 9. The 45th Anniversary Orchid Show: Women Breaking the Glasshouse Ceiling is presented by Better-Gro; for more information call (941) 366-5731 ext. 225 or visit

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