Beguiling Orchids

Breathtaking views with a touch of nostalgia

9 JUNE 2017,
New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show, Dendrobium
New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show, Dendrobium

Nature is most lavish in her gifts, and in order to appreciate and enjoy them, we should listen to her voice and study well her teachings, for they will surely inculcate a tone of refinement…”

(John T. C. Clark, The Amateur’s Guide and Flower Garden Directory, 1856)

Air travel has lost some of its glamour amid the recent discouraging news items. Whether it’s over one’s choice of clothing, overbooked seats, various biases, or a plethora of other bothersome inconveniences, sometimes one just can’t take the time off to travel. I miss the bygone days of being able to carry on my tote bag filled with local goodies. I fondly reminiscence about the South of France; Olive oil from Moulin à Huile d’Olive Nicolas Alziari in Nice, Niçoise Olives Moulin de la Brague, liqueur from Île Saint-Honorat, a bottle of rosé from a vineyard we stayed at in Cotignac, and Provencal miel de lavande (crémeux). Today, I just forgo what I can’t pack safely in my suitcase. When I travel, I’m always thinking about how I might apply what I just saw into ideas for the home. I document my research in in a little notebook and take photos for support. I find myself asking at times, “Could I live in this village, even if just part of the year ?” I imagine finding my dream home, throwing out the key and my iPhone, and finding eternal bliss with an old stone home in the country.

For now, I satiate my wanderlust with day-trips as they are a convenient way to step out of the ordinary. Attending the annual New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show has become an essential part of my life. The theme of the fifteenth annual Orchid Show this year was a tribute to the diversity and abundance of Thailand’s orchids. Christian Primeau, the designer (and NYBG’s Conservatory Manager) and Marc Hachadourian (the Director of Nolen Greenhouses and the curator of the Orchid collection) were the two principals responsible for creating this year’s Orchid Show.

Visitors to this year’s show were treated to more than a thousand orchids in the milieu of a classical Thai garden at the Garden’s Victorian-style Enid A. Haupt conservatory. In the Palms of the World Gallery, I fall immediately under the spell of orchids. At once I feel a rush of awe and wonder and allow myself to entertain for a fleeting moment that I'm living in the tropics. It's easy to be swept away into a fantasy surrounded by decorative elephant topiaries filled with orchids, exuberant gardens adorned with orchids, and walkways embellished with traditional Thai garden objet. I learned about Thailand’s cultivation of orchids and its renown for breeding beautiful blooms of Vanda, Dendrobium, and Paphiopedilum. With my senses stimulated I started to see colorful Thai silks flashing in mind’s eye - and in particular - the legendary Thai silks of Jim Thompson.

Style is a simple way of saying complicated things

(Jean Cocteau)

Thus, I headed for New York’s Decoration and Design Building in Manhattan where I can see Jim Thompson collection at the Jerry Pair showroom. It was here I discovered the vivacious and tropical embroidered fabric named Heliconia Dreamin from their Leo de Janeiro collection. I can envision this fabric being used in so many ways, as cheerful shades in a breakfast room, a curtain in the living room offsetting the coldness of high-rise apartment living, as throw pillows on a window seat, or even a very decadent tea cosy!

If that wasn’t enough to spark an idea for an interior, I came across Designer’s Guild Christian Lacroix’s Jardin Exo’chic, Bougainvillier from their Belle Rives fabric collection- a digitally printed palm forest panorama on cotton sateen in vivid greens, blues and magenta. This fabric pleases my fondness for oversized palm leaves. The Belle Rives collection was inspired by French Rivera and its breathtaking views, with a touch of nostalgia for the glamorous film era. I could see it as the perfect fabric for an upholstered folding screen, for cushions in an enclosed porch, or for curtains in the dressing room of a pool house.

I’ve always had a weakness for hand-painted wallpaper. Along my journey searching for new ways to bring a tropical garden into the home I came across Misha’s graceful handmade wallpaper - Exotic Garden pattern from their Asia collection. I’m attracted to its beautiful green-on-green tropical garden motif of oversized palms and exotic birds. I could see this wallpaper in a foyer, a bedroom and in a dining room.

I’ve mentioned three standouts here, and they’re all beautiful, yet I do not advise on using them together. Rather each one is a jumping-off point to start an interior and bring in the rest of the scheme.

Although they have a reputation for being hard to take care of, adding living orchids into your home might be considered. Go ahead and be daring. Apparently they are no harder to care for than any other house plant. I popped into J and L Orchids in Easton, Connecticut to see what I might find. One of my favorites was a Paphiopedilum also known as Lady Slipper, which instantly reminded me of a Martin Johnson Heade painting. This flower actually brought me a new appreciation for this artist.

Even though I might not live in the tropics, I do enjoy the short time we get to enjoy indoor/outdoor living by taking the interiors outside, setting out garden furniture on front porch and the back deck, and taking house plants outside until the fall. I enjoy the rhythm of the seasons. An enclosed porch can feel like a summer home where one can easily lull oneself to sleep to the sound of chirping crickets- a place where I might take out one of my notebooks and try to decipher my notes, look at old photo albums, peruse Michelin maps, and think about where we are going away next.