COLUMBUS, Ohio — “How like a winter hath my absence been.”
William Shakespeare wrote that in “Sonnet 97” and to many, winter is summed up by the word, absence — absence of color and warmth. However, in the middle of this long winter, something beautiful is blooming at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, Ohio — “Orchids!”
“Orchids!” is the name of the conservatory’s latest display which includes hundreds of orchids arranged in the warmth of the Dorothy M. Davis Showhouse. Visitors can walk through row upon row of the delicate flowers in a design inspired by Aurora Robson’s suspended sculptures on view in “Sacrifice + Bliss” in another part of the conservatory. Robson’s display consists of plastic debris, excess packing and junk mail to create art and awareness about plastic pollution.
Orchid chandeliers hang from the ceilings, suspended above rows of ornately arranged counterparts in gardens and on string, ascending the walls in a vertical fashion only to stop at the ceiling or emerge into an arch of color.
A mid-winter escape, “Orchids!” features many of the 25,000 species of the flower which grow on six continents. Known for their beauty and exotic character, the meaning of orchids have evolved through the years to include love, beauty, luxury and strength. To Greeks, orchids suggested virility; in Victorian England they were a symbol of luxury. The flowers were also believed to have healing and protective properties to ward off disease — the Chinese believe orchids can help cure lung illnesses and coughs. Orchids can grow naturally in almost any climate with the Vanilla Orchid (and its vanilla bean) as the most highly produced variety.
The Franklin Park Conservatory offers daily “Orchid Talks” at 1 p.m. and “Orchid Walks” at 11 a.m. on Saturdays with a staff horticulturist. “Orchid Sundays” take place from 1 p.m.-4 p.m., when Central Ohio Orchid Society members answer questions about orchid care.
The Franklin Park Conservatory is located at 1777 East Broad. St. in Columbus. The “Orchids!” display is open until April 7. The next major event planned at the conservatory is one of its most popular, “Blooms and Butterflies” which opens on March 9 - Sept. 2. Each day of the “Blooms and Butterflies” exhibit, 800 butterflies will be released into the Pacific Rainforest room to freely fly around visitors to the conservatory.
Find the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens online at www.fpconservatory.org.