January in the Orangery

By Nick Snakenberg, Curator of Orchids/Greenhouse

What better way to escape the winter cold than to enjoy a stroll through the cozy and colorful Orangery at Denver Botanic Gardens. From January 6 through February 20, the Orangery is decked out with plenty of beautiful orchids to excite the senses.

This year’s Orchid Showcase was inspired by the Victorian era obsession with orchids. Victorian accents adorn the space along with digital reproductions of artwork compiled in the 1800s for "Reichenbachia – Orchids Illustrated and Described." This monumental four-volume work included glorious botanical illustrations to entice orchid fanatics to purchase orchid plants from the nursery owned by the book's publisher Frederick Sanders.

A number of orchid genera will be on display throughout the Orangery.

  • Perhaps the most recognizable orchids on display will be Phalaenopsis hybrids. In the wild, Phalaenopsis species generally grow in warm lowland forests throughout much of tropical Asia and parts of Australia. Because of their ease of culture and long-lasting flowers, they are the most popular orchid for hobbyist to grow in the home.
  • Paphiopedilum orchids occur naturally from India through southern China and through Southeast Asia. Their bizarre pouched flowers can be so ugly they are beautiful. Plants typically grow in densely shaded areas of the forest floor. This low light requirement makes them popular as houseplants as well.
  • The genus Dendrobium is one of the largest of the orchid family with over 1200 naturally occurring species over a wide range of Asian and South Pacific countries as well as Australia and New Zealand. With such a broad natural range, there is an equally large range of cultural conditions necessary to grow these plants successfully in the home. But given the right conditions, these plants can reward the hobbyist with months of beautiful flowers.
  • Oncidium orchids can be found growing naturally in tropical regions of the Americas from Florida as far south as Argentina. They hybridize with other orchid genera readily and this hybrid vigor has made them popular as houseplants among orchid growers.
  • Hybrid Cymbidium orchids are popular as a corsage flower but wild species can be found growing naturally from India and Japan in the northern hemisphere and in Australia in the southern hemisphere. Many Cymbidium require cool growing conditions which can make them a challenge to re-bloom as a houseplant.

Don’t forget to look past the botanical prints to view orchids on display in windows of the greenhouses along the Orangery. Plants will be rotated in and out of the windows from the behind-the-scenes collections as they come into bloom. Orchids can also be found blooming in Marnie’s Pavilion, the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory (if you look closely you may find a Vanilla in bloom) and in the main lobby near Mitchell Hall.

We hope you enjoy this year’s Orchid Showcase.