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Selby Gardens Goes Elemental for its Newest Orchid Show

Earth, Air, Fire, Water celebrates nature’s essential elements.

By Ilene Denton October 4, 2017

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Selby Gardens' Tropical Conservatory during the 2016 Orchid Show.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens director of glasshouse collections Angel Lara was listening to Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland” one evening while brainstorming ideas for the Gardens’ upcoming Orchid Show, when it dawned on him that a theme centered around “the elements, the basic necessity of life itself” would make an educational and inspiring theme.

The Orchid Show, opening Oct. 12, will fill the Gardens’ Tropical Conservatory with hundreds of colorful orchids, many of them from Selby’s collection of rare plants. They will be mounted on an eight-foot tall “mountain” made of rocks, to illustrate how the earth itself plays a role in growing orchids; and around a waterfall, to demonstrate water and rain’s roles in the environment. Fire will be represented with a section on photosynthesis, and wind by a section on wind pollination—how orchids utilize air drafts to move their seed around.

In the Museum of Botany and Arts in the Payne Mansion, show-goers will see a display of orchid books from the Gardens’ extensive library collection and preserved specimens from its spirit collection. 

“With the Orchid Show, I always try to bring it back to Selby’s core mission: education, conservation and botanical education,” says Lara. “I want [show-goers] to understand how orchids utilize what’s available in order to grow and succeed; how really important is the role of these elements. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the earth we inhabit is not only for our gain, but for everything.”

It will be plenty beautiful, too, judging from the inaugural Orchid Show in February 2016. That six-week show attracted record crowds; admission revenue was up 42 percent from the same time period in 2015, and membership was up a whopping 67 percent.

The Orchid Show runs through Nov. 26, with several special events, including half-hour Walk ‘n Talk tours with Gardens horticulturists Oct. 26; a lecture on Orchid Mania: The Orchid Craze in Victorian Britain Nov. 15; classes on repotting orchids and chances for photographers to take their tripods into the Conservatory and into the nonpublic greenhouses; six Orchid Evenings with live music in the conservatory; and a luncheon Oct. 18 featuring a lecture with the provocative title, “Sex, Lies and Orchids,” led by Selby scientist Dr. Antonio Toscano de Brito. Details and tickets can be found at

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