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A mannequin with floral attire.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan for Time Out | Design by Kristen Alpaugh (FLWR PSTL)

A first look at New York Botanical Garden’s fabulous fashion-focused orchid show

Orchids, the divas of the plant world, are getting their runway moment.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan

With their vibrant colors, delicate ruffles, and dramatic shapes, orchids love to show off their looks. This spring, the New York Botanical Garden is giving the divas of the plant world their moment in the spotlight as part of “The Orchid Show: Florals in Fashion.”

Three up-and-coming designers created massive installations inspired by these fashionable flowers. In one, you'll see orchids turned into avant-garde clothing. Another features a regal orchid queen. The final section draws upon AI to create anthropomorphic creatures who don floral outfits. Florals in Fashion is on view from February 17 through April 22 at NYBG in the Bronx; adult tickets cost $35.

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For the past 21 years, the annual orchid show has offered a sure sign of spring for winter-weary New Yorkers. Thousands of orchids fill the Haupt Conservatory for what the botanical garden's CEO Jennifer Bernstein calls a "picture perfect celebration of all things orchid."

To take the floral fun up a notch, NYBG is hosting several Orchid Nights, 21+ events with music, performances, cocktails, and light bites. Orchid Nights will be held on March 30 and April 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, and 20.

Here are five things to see at this year's orchid show

Mannequins with floral attire.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan for Time Out | Design by Olivia Cheng (Dauphinette)

1. Orchids as avant-garde clothing

The show begins in what looks like a high-end fashion boutique. Mannequins pose in floral dresses designed by Dauphinette, the brand by Olivia Cheng. In front of a wall of orchids, mirrors, and other plants, mannequins wear headdresses and orbs made up of air plants. Another mannequin sons a bra made up of red flowers and yet another sports a cocktail dress crawling with beetles. 

The mannequins pose in a pond, which turns their reflections into a trippy mirrored effect.

Mannequins with floral attire.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan for Time Out | Design by Kristen Alpaugh (FLWR PSTL)

2. An orchid queen

A towering queen made up of moss, orchids, and air plants welcomes visitors to the world of Kristen Alpaugh (a.k.a. FLWR PSTL). Her imaginative creations also include a purse created with orchid stems, a tuxedo jacket ornamented with orchids, a fountain-turned-skirt, and leaf skeletons cast in resin to create a puffer coat. 

"Orchids are so special and so rare and you never get to see them in copious amounts like you're going to be experiencing them here at NYBG," she says. 

Mannequins with floral attire.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan for Time Out | Design by Hillary Taymour (Collina Strada)

3. An orchid runway

Anthropomorphic creatures model the floral clothing in Hillary Taymour's room, called "Freeze Frame." Her work, as part of the brand Collina Strada features several runway vignettes with geometric plantings. Large frames, decked out in orchids, encircle each scene. 

As a designer, Taymour says she loves to create "outlandish" shows. She even used AI to create the mannequins, which blend human and animal characteristics.

Tiny pink and red orchids.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan for Time Out

4. Teeny tiny orchids

Orchids don’t always look like the ones you can often find in the grocery store. Instead, some of them are so tiny you may have to squint to see them. New York Botanical Garden is home to a collection of tiny orchids. You’ll see some of the smallest flowers in the world, measuring in at just barely over one millimeter in diameter. 

"The huge range of size and shapes are typically what you would find if you were traveling to see orchids throughout the Andes or other diverse areas in the world," the botanical garden's Marc Hachadourian explains. 

But instead of traveling to the Andes, you can see them right here in NYC. 

Orchids in the conservatory.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan for Time Out

5. Fragrant orchids

Remember to engage not just your sense of sight, but also your sense of smell at this show. 

"Many people forget that orchids are tremendously fragrant. There are orchids that smell like jasmine, roses, and there are even orchids that smell like you should be checking the bottom of your feet. Not all fragrances are pleasant when it comes to orchids," Hachadourian says. 

Some orchids produce their fragrance during the day, while others only emit their fragrance after dark because that is when their pollinator is active. 

"As you travel through the exhibition depending on where the sun shines, the fragrance will change during the day," he says. "Many of the orchids will not produce their fragrance until the sun hits the flowers. And so as the sun moves through the conservatory, the fragrance will change, which is another wonderful aspect of the exhibition." 

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