Though snow continues to fall across the city, spring has finally arrived at the Bronx’s New York Botanical Garden, where the conservatory’s annual Orchid Show is in full bloom. To celebrate, we rode the train uptown, took off our jackets, and spoke with Marc Hachadourian, the manager of the Nolan glasshouse and the garden’s orchid curator.
On what makes this year’s show special: Over the past several years we’ve used some very special designers, landscape designers who have helped us come up with different themes and designs for the show. For some of the previous exhibitions, it’s had what you might say is a very contemporary feel, a very high design feel, because of some of the design styles of the people we worked with, people like Patrick Blanc, the famous green wall designer who we worked with last year.
And this year we decided to work not only with an in-house designer (Francisca Coehlo, who has actually been responsible for the implementation of all the orchid shows over the past few years, fine tuning the designs that have been done over the years) and go back to her roots, doing a kind of naturalistic display, a fantasy garden-type atmosphere, which a lot of our visitors said they loved.
On where the orchids come from: We get most of the plants from speciality nurseries around the country—Hawaii, Florida, California, you name it—because we don’t have the space needed to grow that quanity of plant material year round. We do also supplement the displays with unusual specimens from our own collection and do a couple of speciality displays both in the Lowland Rainforest Galleries as well as a case full of miniature orchids, very unusual species orchids that come from our permanent collection.
On his own interest in orchids: I was a kid always interested in science, running around the woods and the swamps near my house getting involved in all sorts of things, catching snakes, turtles, and lizards. And as you discover thing you didn’t know, I’d just look them up in my field guides and my books and I discovered some native orchids growing around my house. Once I started learning about orchids and the orchid family and the unusual plants that they are, it kind of developed into this passion about orchids that I just took to the extreme. And now I’m working with them every day.
I’ve been growing orchids now for over 30 years. I started when I was 10 years old. From there I’ve continued growing orchids on my windowsill and maintained a personal collection as well as managing the collection here. To me it’s very fascinating. Since orchids are so diverse, it never gets boring, because you can never learn all there is to know. And just when you think you’ve learned it all something else comes along that you haven’t seen before.
On incorporating downed trees into the displays: As you might imagine, one of the things we don’t like to do at the garden is cut down trees. So we were trying to figure out a way to have large trees on display festooned with orchids for the show, and after the storm hit we were kind of provied with a surplus of usable material, so we wound up taking some of the downed branches and utilizing them throughout the show to provide some of the vertical structure that we put the orchids on for the exhibition.
On his favorite part of the show: One of the displays I always love is the miniature orchids case because it really does show a lot of the diversity that exists in the orchid kingdom. And there are a lot of plants from our collection. Even though those big beautiful hybrids are throughout the main show galleries, it’s really those miniatures that manage to capture my attention because they’re so fascinating and many times so unusual.