Thousands of blooms are on display as part of the organization’s 200th anniversary celebration.

By Andrea Beck
March 02, 2020

When it's cold out, I always find it refreshing to take a stroll through a conservatory at a botanic garden. Inside this warm, greenhouse-like atmosphere, I can immerse myself among gorgeous exotic plants that make me forget all about winter outside. The fascinating flowers of orchids are some of my favorites to admire, and luckily, they are often on display at public gardens this time of year, just when we're all in desperate need of some brightly colored blooms to tide us over until spring. One of the most impressive displays of these plants is the 25th Annual Orchid Exhibit, which just opened at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. (which also happens to be on my bucket list, since it's one of oldest botanic gardens in the country).

Visitors can learn about how orchids have traveled around the world throughout the centuries.
Courtesy of the U.S. Botanic Garden

The theme for this year’s event, Discover the World of Orchids, says it all. After strolling through the exhibit, you'll come away knowing a lot more about these amazing plants that grow all across the globe. Part of the display features docks, shipping crates, and barrels overflowing with orchids, a tribute to this plant’s centuries-old popularity (orchids were being shipped across the ocean even in the 1700s, in early versions of terrariums called Wardian cases).

Thousands of blooming orchids will be on display for over two months throughout the Botanic Garden.
Courtesy of the U.S. Botanic Garden

You can also see 8-foot-tall curtains made with colorful Vanda orchids, and hundreds more orchids are on display in the U.S. Botanic Garden’s Tropics house, including a photo-worthy arch of epiphytic orchids (orchids that grow by attaching themselves to other plants). The exhibit, created in partnership with Smithsonian Gardens, also includes details about the conservation of rare and endangered orchids. If you'd like to try growing these beautiful plants yourself, you can attend demonstrations and workshops on orchid care.

The orchid display was created in partnership with Smithsonian Gardens, which has its own collection of over 6,000 orchids.
Courtesy of the U.S. Botanic Garden

The orchid exhibit is part of the U.S. Botanic Garden’s 200th-anniversary celebration, because orchids have been part of the Garden since the 1800s and make up the organization’s largest collection of specialty plants. The display opened on February 28 and runs through May 3, so there’s plenty of time to make a trip to D.C. to see them in person. You can also check out a special bicentennial exhibit while you’re there, which runs from February 20 through October 15 and features historic images of the Botanic Garden and an opportunity to learn more about plant exploration.

Even if you can’t make it during the orchid exhibit, a trip to the Botanic Garden is worth it anytime you find yourself in Washington D.C. Admission is free, and you can explore both the conservatory and the National Garden each day of the week. Established by Congress in 1820 and permanently open to the public since 1850, it’s also the oldest continuously operating public garden in the country. It currently has a collection of about 65,000 plants, including orchids, cacti, carnivorous plants, ferns, and medicinal plants, so there’s a lot to take in, no matter when you go.

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