One of Britain’s favourite houseplants, the Phalaenopsis (moth orchid) was celebrated in style at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show this week.
Up to 5,000 plants, grown by Double H Nurseries in Hampshire, were been used to create the most spectacular display of moth orchids ever seen in the UK, with 100 varieties on show. The orchid extravaganza was masterminded by award-winning floral designer Jonathan Moseley, known for his innovative and creative floral designs.
Watch: Orchids in the Great Conservatory
Here, we take a look inside Chatsworth Flower Show's Great Conservatory at the orchids that wowed visitors during the 2018 show.
Taking centre stage
Standing in the centre of The Great Conservatory was the central green-walls feature. In this feature, there were four colour-themed sides that artfully mixed moth orchids with a supporting cast of exotic (and some more familiar) foliage plants in appropriate shades. The size and scope of the installation, which used the full height of the Great Conservatory, was simply breathtaking.
On one side of the central feature was a pink-themed wall, which artfully combined moth orchids and Anthurium (flamingo flowers) in pale pink.
Another section of the wall had a pale and yellow theme. Here, masses of white-flowered moth orchids with sinuous driftwood branches, ferns and yellow-leaved sedges, softened by the delicate filigree foliage of maidenhair ferns came together. More understated than the other colour-themed living walls, it was all the more effective in its lush, cool simplicity.
Small but perfectly formed
The smaller-scale exhibits that surrounded the central feature combined different orchid genera with each other, or used them as elements in floral arrangements. Here, single cut Cymbidium flowers were suspended in tiny glass bowls, allowing their intricate form and beauty to be appreciated in close-up.
More suspended individual Cymbidium flowers, beautifully framed by a rectangle of cycad (Cycas revoluta) and asparagus fern foliage, formed a relatively simple but classy, contemporary arrangement.
Orchid enthusiasts often grow some of their plants in wooden baskets that can be suspended from supports. As a quirky alternative, why not try growing plants in upcycled old handbags?
Orange tones in flowers are a relatively recent colour break in moth orchids. Breeders are striving to produce darker, richer oranges, often subtly spotted. En masse, they are certainly an eye-catching alternative to the more familiar white and pink flowers.
Lovely arrangements featured an eclectic mix of plants from all over the world: Vanda orchid hybrids from South East Asia; equally-exotic Protea from South Africa; chrysanthemums and variegated Aspidistra leaves from eastern Asia; and hybrid Oncidium orchids, originally from South America.
Inspiring ornamental orchid ideas
A circular porthole in a curled driftwood screen formed a window, decorated by the edging of dark and sultry purple and burgundy Vanda orchid hybrids and trailing Spanish moss, an airplant of Tillandsia.
Near the main entrance to the Great Conservatory stood an arch of more compact moth orchid cultivars mixed with cut roses and Vanda flowers above an iron gate left slightly ajar. The arch was framed by glorious floral arrangements that mixed more moth orchids in large stone urns with roses, carnations and peonies in shades of pink.
Why are orchids so important to Chatsworth?
Chatsworth House has a long historical connection with orchids, and during the 19th century it was home to one of the most extensive orchid collections in the UK.
The 6th Duke of Devonshire and his head gardener at the time, Sir Joseph Paxton, were pioneers of collecting orchids. The Duke and Paxton sent a young gardener called John Gibson to India in search of new plants. Many of the plants collected are still grown all over the world, while their discoveries such as Cymbidium devonianum have been used to breed many new hybrids. However, the First World War took its toll on Chatsworth’s orchid collections, which dwindled as labour and fuel shortages tightened their grip.
Now, the RHS Orchid Committee is working with Chatsworth in a bid to identify 200 orchids whose names have been lost over the years. A selection of the 800 orchids in Chatsworth’s collection were displayed at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2018 in the Devonshire marquee – showcasing the influence that the historic estate had on orchid collecting and cultivation.
Chatsworth’s glasshouse and production senior supervisor Faye Tuffrey says: “Our display told the story of the 6th Duke of Devonshire’s love of orchids, the efforts he went to in order to build the collection with Sir Joseph Paxton, and how his passion continues to influence Chatsworth today. We used plants from the Chatsworth collection, and also borrowed plants from other growers.”
The Devonshire marquee also hosted displays, talks and demonstrations from other orchid specialists, including Sheffield Orchid Society, Orchideengarten of Germany and Vacherot & Lecoufle based in France.