‘World of Orchids’ show at San Diego Botanic Gardens offers abundance of blooms and knowledge

"World of Orchids" show at San Diego Botanic Garden will artfully display a wide variety of orchid species.
(Rachel Cobb)

The second annual spring orchid showcase in Encinitas opens Saturday runs through June 12


Flower fanatics and novices alike are invited to San Diego Botanic Garden’s (SDBG) “World of Orchids” show, which opens Saturday.

After a successful inaugural event in 2021, the show’s second edition returns with a wide array of orchid species. The five-week spring showcase will feature plants grown on-site, as well as loaner orchids raised by commercial and amateur growers in the region.

Many orchid varietals will be featured at San Diego Botanic Garden's "World of Orchids."
(Rachel Cobb)

John Clements, SDBG’s Director of Gardens, is in charge of the garden’s horticultural affairs, including design and installation of new exhibits. He said that planning for this year’s “World of Orchids” started the minute the 2021 event ended, as there are “so many moving parts” — from raising their own species to coordinating visiting plants.

While launching a large-scale event during the pandemic might seem like a peculiar decision, COVID-19 circumstances were actually the reason “World of Orchids” came to be. When the local orchid societies were forced to cancel their annual show in 2021, SDBG stepped in to continue the tradition, offering to host the show in its conservatory. Due to its roll-up, garage-type glass doors, the space is considered an outdoor space that could accommodate COVID-19 health and safety requirements.

Visitors at SDBG's inaugural "World of Orchids" show held in 2021.

One of the major differences for SDBG’s event was the decision to extend the show from a few days to five weeks. Most orchid shows, Clements noted, consist of one large display and take place over a single weekend.

“If we were going to go to that much trouble, we wanted to just have it keep going,” he said.

To successfully host a monthlong event, SDBG will regularly cycle out orchids and refresh the exhibit with an influx of new plants, making it “kind of like a new show” on a weekly basis.

“Every (Monday) we will trade out plants that aren’t at their best — you know, when the flowers begin to fade,” Clements said. “Orchids bloom a long time, but even they reach their shelf life. Most of them are going to look good for two to three weeks at their peak.”

Every week, San Diego Botanic Garden's month-long exhibit is refreshed with new orchids.
(Rachel Cobb)

Another aspect that sets “World of Orchids” apart? Rather than a static display of flowers set up on a tablecloth, the orchids are artfully placed, resulting in an exhibit that resembles a convention show.

“Basically it turns into one giant floral arrangement,” Clements said, adding that the aesthetic effort is due in large part to René van Rems, SDBG’s artist-in-residence and show’s creative director.

The artistic vision of San Diego Botanic Garden's "World of Orchids" is guided by René van Rems, the show's creative director
The artistic vision of San Diego Botanic Garden’s “World of Orchids” show is guided by René van Rems, SDBG’s artist-in-residence and the show’s creative director.
(Rachel Cobb)

In addition to the floral showcase, there will be vendors selling reasonably priced, hard-to-find plants on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. (Dates subject to change; check website before arrival.)

“World of Orchids” is intended to be enjoyed by everyone, from experts to newbies. Clements noted that those falling into the latter camp will likely be shocked by the show’s variety.

“I think most people tend to associate orchids with Trader Joe’s plants — you know, the phalaenopsis,” he said. “They’re very inexpensive — most people just buy them, let them bloom, and then don’t worry about them again.”

Many orchid varietals will be featured at San Diego Botanic Garden's "World of Orchids."
(Rachel Cobb)

For amateur gardeners having trouble getting orchids to rebloom, “World of Orchids” is a helpful resource. Alongside the weekend vendors, representatives from local orchid societies and conservation organizations will offer an abundance of knowledge and gardening advice. And in conjunction with the event, SDBG will host classes about orchid care and culture on select dates. (See website for SDBG’s class schedule.)

“When (visitors) come to this show, they’ll learn a lot about how to raise orchids and the diversity of how many different types there are,” Clements said. “It’s not just the Trader Joe’s phalaenopsis orchids — there are thousands of very, very cool species that people don’t tend to see very often.”

‘World of Orchids’

When: Opens Saturday and runs daily through June 12. (Note: Every Sunday and Monday the exhibition will be closed to the general public from 9 to 10 a.m. for a “Members Only” hour.)

Where: San Diego Botanic Garden, 230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas

Admission: Free for SDBG members. Nonmember tickets are $18 for adults; $12 for students, seniors and military; $10 for children age three to 17. Visit the website to reserve a date and entrance time.