Celebrating the Colour of Colombian Orchids at Kew!

Kew Gardens, Celebrating the Colour of Colombia!

This weekend the annual Orchid Festival opened at Kew Gardens.  This is the 24th Orchid Festival to be held inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory, at Kew.  Each year the Orchid Festival has a different theme, this year, Kew’s Orchid Festival celebrates the colour and vibrancy of Colombia!  Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet.  The richest country in orchids on Earth; Colombia is home to at least 4,270 recognised orchid species, but there could be any number of unknown orchid species just waiting to be discovered.  Large swathes of Colombia have yet to be explored, their plant species still yet to be recorded.

Kew Diploma Student, Michael Antonetti making the final adjustments to the floral displays hanging above the pond, in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, at Kew Gardens’ Orchid Festival.
Kew Gardens’ 24th Orchid Festival Celebrates the colour and essence of Colombia!

Guadua

These lengths of Guadua angustifolia bamboo, were grown in the Palm House, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Kew’s Orchid Festival celebrates the essence of Colombia.  A type of bamboo, known as Guadua, is of great importance to the Colombian people.  This bamboo grows to form large, tall, strong stems, which are used to build houses, bridges, and furniture.  This is a really fast growing bamboo, it can grow a few feet in height, in the space of just a few days!

To recognise the importance of Guadua to the people of Colombia, Kew’s Orchid Festival features bamboo stems which have been harvested from the Guadua plants growing inside the Palm House, at Kew!

The most beautiful river in the world

This colourful floral exhibit at Kew Gardens’ Orchid Festival has been created from Vanda orchids, as a tribute to the most beautiful river in the world – the Caño Cristales, in Colombia.

Caño Cristales is a Colombian river, it’s known as the most beautiful river in the world!  If you google the most beautiful river in the world Colombia, you’ll see pictures of the most fantastically coloured river!  You might think that these images are the result of a creative individual getting carried away with PhotoShop or some other image enhancer, but these pictures are apparently true to life.

These exuberant Vanda orchids have been fashioned together to pay homage to the beauty of Caño Cristales – a magical river in Colombia, known as the most beautiful river in the world.

This beautiful river, Caño Cristales, is populated with a special type of aquatic plant, known by its scientific name of Macarenia clavigera.  Macarenia clavigera is endemic to Colombia.  This is such a fascinating plant.  When the light, temperature, water levels, and other conditions are right, these special, water dwelling plants turn vibrant rainbow shades of red, blue, green, yellow, and black!

These exuberant Vanda orchids have been fashioned together to pay homage to the beauty of Caño Cristales – a magical river in Colombia, known as the most beautiful river in the world.

Kew’s Orchid Festival pays homage to Caño Cristales, with a special rainbow river of Vanda Orchids!  This over-head display is sinuous, beautiful, and every bit as colourful as the magical river that inspired its design.

You can see a rainbow of Vanda orchids, at Kew Gardens’ Orchid Festival.

Vandas are a really striking genus of orchids, producing large, colourful flowers, they originate from East and South-East Asia and New Guinea.  An epiphytic orchid, Vandas don’t grow in the soil, they grow upon another plant, their large roots take in moisture and nutrients from the air, the rain and any debris, dust, or organic matter that has collected around the plant.

Chocolate

Theobroma cacao, pictured at Kew Gardens’ Colombian Orchid Festival.

Colombian chocolate is thought to be one of the best chocolates in the world.  Theobroma cacao, meaning ‘food of the Gods’ is grown in Colombia.  This plant’s seeds are used to make chocolate and other delicious products.  Visitors can see this plant and its ripening fruit inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory, at Kew.

Giant cocoa pods made from bromeliads and other tropical flowers, representing Colombia’s chocolate, at the Kew Gardens’ Orchid Festival.

Colombian animals made from plants!

Kew Diploma Student, Sal Demain, pictured as she adds the finishing touches to the central display, in the middle of the Princess of Wales Conservatory’s pond!

Visitors to Kew Gardens Orchid Festival can spot all manner of Colombian animals that have been crafted from plants by Master Florist, Henck Röling and his team of assistants, at Kew.

These Scarlet Ibis or Spoonbills have been made from leaves and Phalaenopsis plants. Pictured at Kew Gardens’ orchid Festival.
These Scarlet Ibis or Spoonbills have been made from leaves and Phalaenopsis plants. Pictured at Kew Gardens’ orchid Festival.
A Scarlet Ibis or Spoonbill, which has been made from leaves and Phalaenopsis plants. Pictured at Kew Gardens’ orchid Festival.
A closer look at the Scarlet Ibis or Spoonbill, which has been made from leaves and Phalaenopsis plants. Pictured at Kew Gardens’ orchid Festival.
Master Florist Henck Röling has created this Jaguar, especially for Kew Gardens’ Colombian Orchid Festival.
Master Florist Henck Röling has created this Jaguar and the bear above, especially for Kew Gardens’ Colombian Orchid Festival.
Master Florist Henck Röling has created this Jaguar, for Kew Gardens’ Colombian Orchid Festival.
A closer look at the Jaguar, at the Orchid Festival, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Master Florist Henck Röling’s woven willow tapir, pictured on the island, in the central display, at the Kew Gardens’ Orchid Festival.
A falcon constructed from moss and leaves, flies above the plants, inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory, at Kew Gardens Orchid Festival.
A falcon made from moss flies above the plants inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory, at Kew Gardens’ Orchid Festival.
Master Florist Henck Röling, adding the orchids to the sloth he has created for Kew Gardens Colombian Orchid Festival.
‘Sid’ the Giant Sloth pictured in the central display of the Kew Gardens Orchid Festival, within the Princess of Wales Conservatory.
‘Sid’ the Giant Sloth pictured hanging above the central display, at Kew Gardens Orchid Festival, within the Princess of Wales Conservatory.
‘Sid’ the Giant Sloth pictured in the central display of the Kew Gardens Orchid Festival, within the Princess of Wales Conservatory, at Kew.

The floristry work at this year’s Orchid Festival was created by Master Florist, Henck Röling.  You can find out more about Henck and see more photographs of his work here.

Colombia and the UK

In 2016, following the peace agreements in Colombia, Colombia committed itself to the focusing on the country’s Green Growth.  Green Growth is a global network of international organisations and experts, whose goal is to identify and address major knowledge gaps in green growth theory and practice.  Green growth is the fostering of economic growth and development, whilst insuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources and environmental benefits on which our wellbeing relies.

Princess of Wales Conservatory Manager Elisa Biondi and Kew Science Diversity and Livelihoods Research Leader, Mauricio Diazgranados Cadelo, explain the importance of the orchids and plants of Colombia, at the launch of the 2019 Orchid Festival, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Colombia requested international support to help with the country’s Green Growth, the UK responded to Colombia’s requests and offered their support.  The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are supporting Colombia.  The specialists at Kew are working with the country under the umbrella of an initiative known as Colombia Bio to research the undiscovered areas of Colombia, looking at the plants found in these regions, the country’s ecosystems, and biodiversity.  Humans have shaped so much of our planet, that undiscovered areas are few and far between – the present a great opportunity.  These unchartered areas of Colombia offer all manner of research possibilities for the scientists and specialists at Kew.  Who knows what plants are yet to be discovered and how helpful the compounds they produce maybe?  It’s an exciting and interesting prospect!

Colombia has at least six un-contacted tribes who are yet to make contact with the Western world.  There are areas of pristine Amazon forest in Colombia and so many uncharted areas that do not have roads and so are unexplored.  The plant species that are growing in these areas have never been documented and recorded.  Kew want to work with Colombia to ensure that their plants are conserved and protected, and the people’s knowledge of the plants is passed onto to future generations.

Kew have worked on a significant number of research projects with the Colombian people.  They have already helped to set up a seed bank in Colombia, to protect Colombia’s plant species for the future.  At the end of March 2019, a new portal will be launched, known as Col Plant-A, this new venture will allow anyone to search for information on Colombia’s plant species, listing the plant’s scientific name, alongside common names, the areas where that plant can be found, together with other scientific and relevant information.  The idea of this portal is to make information on Colombia’s plants and their uses, accessible to all.

Colombian orchids

Colombia’s National Flower

In 1936, the Colombian Government asked Botanist Emilio Robledo to choose a flower to represent the country. Emilio Robledo chose Cattleya trianae as the National Flower of Colombia.

In 1936, Colombia chose an orchid as their National Flower.  The orchid chosen as Colombia’s symbol is the perfect choice – Cattleya trianae is endemic to Colombia.  This orchid was named after José Jerónimo Triana Silva, a Colombian botanist and explorer.  Colombia’s National Flower displays the colours: yellow and purple, alongside a deeper purple or maroon, on the flower’s lip.  This orchid’s flowers’ colours are very similar to the colours shown on the Colombian flag.  The colours are also in a similar formation and order as the bands of colours seen on the country’s flag.

Cattleya trianae flowers typically last for around four weeks before fading.
Cattleya trianae is also known as the Christmas Orchid, as it flowers during the Christmas period.

Cattleya trianae is endemic to Colombia, this large sized epiphyte naturally grows high up in the canopy and on the trunks of trees.  Sadly, following the destruction of this orchid’s natural habitat, Cattleya trainae is now endangered in the wild.

Cattleya trianae used to grow abundantly; this orchid could be found growing in many areas in Colombia. Following the destruction of this orchid’s natural habitat, Cattleya trianae is now endangered in the wild.

Vanilla planifolia

‘Sid’ the Giant Sloth pictured hanging above the central display, at Kew Gardens Orchid Festival, within the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Did you know that vanilla is an orchid?  Yes, that’s right, it is!  Vanilla comes from the ripened and steamed, seed pods of an orchid, known as Vanilla planifolia.  So, when you next enjoy the delectable, sweet and soothing vanilla taste that Vanilla imbues over all manner of foods, most notably, ice cream, cakes, and confectionary, remember that it’s an orchid that produces the flavour!

Vanilla orchid vines and Tillsandia hang down from the Giant Sloth, part of the central display of the Kew Gardens Orchid Festival, within the Princess of Wales Conservatory, at Kew.

Phragmipedium sedenii

Phragmipedium sedenii, is one of many orchids, which are known by the common name of slipper orchids.

Another Colombian orchid that you can see on display during Kew Gardens’ Orchid Festival is Phragmipedium sedenii.  This particular orchid is a naturally occurring hybrid between Phragmipedium longifolium and Phragmipedium schlimii.  As you can see in my photographs, this orchid produces these very pretty, slipper-like flowers.

Phragmipedium sedenii produces these cute, sugar-pink and white coloured flowers.

Odontoglossum naevium

Odontoglossum naevium, pictured at the Kew gardens’ Orchid Festival. Previously known as Oncidium naevium, this is an endangered epiphytic orchid, from Colombia and Venuzuela.

Odontoglossum naevium is an endangered orchid species, which hails from Colombia.  Often mistaken for an Oncidium, this orchid species is said to produce fragrant flowers.

Restrepia contorta

Restrepia contorta produces such pretty freckled pink and maroon flowers.

Restrepia contorta is a miniature orchid that can be found growing in cloud forests in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.  This little orchid enjoys warm temperatures and very high humidity, with frequent, regular misting.

The Glasshouses Team at Kew

Last year Nick Johnson, the Public Glasshouses Manager, at Kew moved to the Cayman Islands (you can read more about Nick Johnson’s work here).  Following Nick’s move, Scott Taylor has now been promoted to the position of Display Glasshouses Manager at Kew (you can read more about Scott Taylor’s work here).

Princess of Wales Conservatory Manager Elisa Biondi, is pictured with Kew Science Diversity and Livelihoods Research Leader, Mauricio Diazgranados Cadelo, at the launch of the 2019 Orchid Festival, at Kew. Elisa and Mauricio are pictured inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Elisa Biondi has worked as the Manager of the Princess of Wales Conservatory for a number of years now.  Elisa leads a team which includes Kew horticulturists, students, trainees, and volunteers.

Kew Diploma Students Sal Demain and Michael Antonetti carrying out the final checks of the orchids on the central display, at Kew Gardens Orchid Festival.

Elisa Biondi, the Princess of Wales Conservatory Manager is the Designer and Creator of this year’s Orchid Festival.  Elisa is a really talented designer, she has designed the Orchid Festival at Kew for a number of years, producing displays that seem to increase in complexity and size, year after year.

Colombian, Mauricio Diazgranados Cadelo is Kew’s Science Diversity and Livelihoods Research Leader, he’s been working alongside Elisa to make Kew’s Colombian Orchid Festival as authentic and informative as possible.  The Colombian Embassy have also provided assistance to the Orchid Festival team, donating hats and National Costumes, as well as providing information and feedback on the planned displays.

Master Florist Henck Röling and Volunteer John Selfe pictured inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory, at Kew.

Elisa Biondi leads a truly great team of staff and volunteers at Kew.  Master Florist, Henck Röling, has again woven his magic around the Princess of Wales Conservatory, at Kew, creating all manner of Colombian creatures out of plants and plant materials.

A number of months before the Orchid Festival opens to the public, designer Elisa Biondi provides Henck with designs and ideas of what she would like him to create.  Kew staff and volunteers assist both Elisa and Henck with their work, creating large scale displays that are often intricate and complex.

My favourite of Master Florist, Henck Röling’s creations for Kew’s Orchid Festival, is this dear little willow Tapir, which has been woven from Salix. It’s utterly charming!

My favourite of Henck’s creations at this year’s Orchid Festival is the Tapir, which has been intricately woven out of Salix, which is also known as Pussy Willow.  (You can see more photographs of Henck Röling’s work here).

Volunteers

Some of the team who created the 2019 Orchid Festival at Kew; from left to right: Display Glasshouses Manager Scott Taylor, pictured with John, John Selfe, next to Henck Röling and Alison Rickard, who are holding Jean-Michel Touche.

Around one hundred, fabulous, hardworking and talented volunteers have worked alongside Elisa Biondi and her team, to deliver Elisa’s designs for this year’s Colombian Orchid Festival.  Every year I am impressed by Kew’s staff and volunteers, they’re a great bunch of people.  Hardworking and talented, they encompass people of all ages and abilities, working together in harmony.

Kew is a truly fabulous place to visit!  If you’re visiting the Orchid Festival, don’t forget to visit the Temperate House, the Palm House, the Davies Alpine House, the Hive, the art galleries, and the outdoor gardens.  The gardens at Kew extend to 326 acres, so there’s lots of space to explore, as well as lots to see!

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are holding their Colombian Orchid Festival from Saturday the 9th February 2019 until Sunday the 10th March 2019.

To see more of the orchids at Kew Gardens 2019 Orchid Festival, please click here.

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are holding their Colombian Orchid Festival from Saturday the 9th February 2019 until Sunday the 10th March 2019.  To visit Kew Gardens’ website and find out more about their Colombian Orchid Festival, please click here.

More about Kew Gardens

To read about the refurbishment of the Temperate House at Kew Gardens, please click here.

To see all of my articles about Kew Gardens’ Orchid Festivals, please click here.

To read about the Queen of Orchids, the largest orchid in the world, please click here.

To see all of my articles that feature Kew, please click here.

Articles about current shows and events that may interest you………

To see a calendar of snowdrop garden openings across the UK, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, please click here.

To see a calendar of specialist plant fairs, festivals, sales and swaps, please click here.

To see a calendar of daffodil events and daffodil gardens across the UK, please click here.

More orchid articles………

To read all of my articles about orchids, please click here.

To see the first part of my White Orchid Trial, please click here.

To see how my Rainforest Terrarium was created, please click here.

To see the step by step process of how my Orchidarium was created, please click here.

To see my step-by-step guide of how to set up and plant a terrarium or bottle garden, please click here.

To see a list of mini miniature orchids to grow inside terrariums or bottle gardens, please click here.

To see a planting list of a wide variety of plants, including orchids, ferns, and other plants that are ideally suited to growing inside a terrarium or bottle garden, complete with stockists, please click here.

To read the first part of my Miniature Orchid Trial, please click here.

To read the first part of my Madagascan Orchid Trial, please click here.

Other articles you might like:

One thought on “Celebrating the Colour of Colombian Orchids at Kew!

  1. Mary Beton

    February 20, 2019 at 1:56pm

    Thanks for this article – it pushed me to go and see the orchid festival for myself and I was completely blown away. There are SO many orchids. Whatever do they do with them all afterwards?

    • Author

      Pumpkin Beth

      February 21, 2019 at 12:02pm

      Hello Mary, thank you so much for your lovely message – you’ve made my day! I am so glad that you enjoyed visiting the Orchid Festival, Kew is a wonderful place to visit.

      The Phalaenopsis and other orchid hybrids that are ordered in especially for the Orchid Festival are sold to Kew staff, when the festival closes. The orchid species plants are part of Kew’s large and varied orchid collection. Kew have a large, behind the scenes glasshouse, where orchids are grown. These orchids are moved into the Princess of Wales Conservatory when they are in bloom, and the orchids in the POWC are moved back into the behind the scenes nursery, when their flowers fade, so visitors always see different orchids.

      I am so glad that you enjoyed a lovely day out – don’t miss my calendar of snowdrop garden openings (snowdrops are at their peak now) and my article that focuses on daffodil events and daffodil gardens.

      Best wishes
      Beth

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