February 23

Botanical garden showcases orchids in room vignettes

At Orchid Mania, devotees of the flashy flowers can see masses of them shipped from around the country.

By Mary Beth Breckenridge
McClatchy Newspapers

CLEVELAND — It’s possible to bring the outdoors in, even in midwinter.

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How to dress up your home with orchids

Inspired to add a few orchids to your own home’s decor?

Before you do, make sure you choose a type that will thrive in the conditions where you want to display it, said Cynthia Druckenbrod, Cleveland Botanical Garden’s vice president of horticulture and its resident orchid expert.

She recommends beginners start with a moth orchid, or phalaenopsis. It likes indirect light and will thrive a long time with proper care, she said.

Moth orchids are fairly hardy and easy to care for, Druckenbrod said, but overwatering can harm them. “It’s so easy to love an orchid to death” by giving it too much water, she said.

She suggests watering by simply placing three ice cubes in the pot each week. Besides limiting the amount of water the plant gets, the ice also provides a little shock of cold that Druckenbrod said she believes helps the plant retain its flower spikes and eventually rebloom.

When the plant finishes blooming, cut off the flower stem if it gets yellow and dies back, making the cut where the stem goes from yellow to green. If the stem stays green, leave it alone.

Druckenbrod recommends giving the plant about a year to rebloom. If it doesn’t, you’re probably better off replacing it.

Maine Orchid Society talk

“NORTH AMERICAN ORCHIDS,” a talk and slideshow by John Mattor, is planned for 6:45 p.m. March 10 at St. Anne’s Church, 299 Main St., Gorham.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, go to maineorchidsociety.org

Interior designers and decorators are demonstrating that during Orchid Mania, the annual orchid celebration of the Cleveland Botanical Garden open through March 9.

Designers have created room vignettes that spotlight the exotic-looking flowers. But these aren’t just a few pretty blooms in a pot. Live orchids have become the subjects of framed artwork, objects on shelves and even ethereal decorations suspended in the air.

The idea was to make orchids dominant elements in the rooms rather than just supporting players, said Chris Kascsak, who served as a lead designer for the event along with Bret Manning, his partner in the Cleveland firm In Design Inc. The effect is meant to be lush and dramatic.

Orchids are displayed throughout the botanical garden building, including masses of flowers displayed in the glasshouse’s two artificial ecosystems. The orchids were shipped from spots across the country – even as far as Hawaii – and represent orchids from across the world, said Mark Bir, the glasshouse horticulturist and the designer of the Orchid Mania show.

The room vignettes serve as a more structured counterpoint to the natural setting of the glasshouse, Kascsak said. The designers were asked to use one or more of the theme colors, he said – saturated hues of grayish purple, springy green, ocean blue and fiery orange-red – that he hopes people will find less intimidating once they see them used effectively.

“This way they get to see them (the colors) in action,” he said.

Some of the room vignettes are edgy, he said, while some are more traditional.

The staff of Reflections Interior Design set up their space as an art gallery, with picture frames surrounding orchids that will be hung on the wall to act as living, three-dimensional paintings.

Karen Gustafson and Lisa Shaffer, on the other hand, created a more utilitarian arrangement in their vignette, a work space designed to help people be more focused, productive and happy. The two set up a desk arrangement meant to foster collaborative work, but they gave the room personality through bold wall colors and playful accents. They attached orchids to weighted cords suspended from the ceiling and filled shelves with fanciful accents.

Beachwood designer Carol M. Wellman painted the back wall of her space in bold blocks of colors. “You’re looking at somebody who couldn’t decide which color to use,” she said with a laugh as she oversaw the painting in preparation for the show.

The room, she said, would be a foyer, with a massive arrangement of orchids on a round table skirted in fabric with the same pattern and colors as the wall.

Kascsak said he hopes the show will be a respite from the season’s bleakness, as well as an inspiration.

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