Kew Gardens is a magnificent place to visit at any time of year as the outdoor gardens transform magically throughout the seasons. But plants from other climatic zones are also on year-round display in the temperature-controlled glasshouses; and Kew is home to the oldest known collection of living orchids. There are two specialised orchid zones in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.
Orchids are entrancingly beautiful flowers – vibrant and sensuous. Some are tiny with intricate petals; others are large, pitcher-shaped and flamboyant. There are 25,000 named species of orchids; and whilst they may conjure up images of an exotic paradise, orchids actually live in a wide range of climates, from the sub-Arctic to the Tropics.
With their intoxicatingly colourful designs, insects are drawn towards them and many orchids have complex relationships with their pollinators. Some can only be pollinated by a specific insect, which is a precarious balance. It is believed that 10% of orchids are now endangered in their native habitats. Some orchids have now become so highly prized that collectors will pay a fortune to own such rare beauty – adding to their uncertain future.
I own a large white orchid, which I have managed to keep alive and (occasionally) flowering for a decade – an achievement as they are notoriously temperamental and difficult flowers to sustain at home! But their remarkable beauty makes the challenge worthwhile…
I hope you enjoy my photos of these strange and enchanting flowers.