Jeff Leatham is a lifestyle icon and floral designer to the stars, with clients like Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, Cher, Oprah Winfrey and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, among others. He’s also the creative force behind The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope, at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), which has just opened. Intensely beautiful and incredibly colorful, the exhibition also marks the 19th year of NYBG’s popular spring exhibition.
Brilliantly conceived and displayed throughout the lush greenhouses of NYBG’s historic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, it is travel of a different kind. Forget about flying south for a little warmth. This is a quick trip to springtime, writ large and blooming in New York. The exhibition will run from February 26 through May 1, 2022.
Leatham also designed the 2020 Orchid Show, which was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has returned with a different but equally dazzling concept that transforms each gallery into a different color experience, like the turn of a kaleidoscope.
“Every time you look into a kaleidoscope you see a different Image, you see a different scenario, you see a different story,” said Leatham, at the press opening for the show. “With this design, visitors will appreciate the beauty of orchids and see NYBG’s Conservatory in exciting new ways.”
The award-winning artistic director of the Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris, Leatham also has studios at the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center and the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. In 2014, he was knighted with the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the highest honor for those who have made a significant contribution to French culture.
For this exhibition, Leatham worked with horticulturists from NYBG, including Senior Curator of Orchids, Marc Hachadourian, to assemble orchids from its collections as well as from some of the finest growers in the world.
“The Orchid Show is one of the ways that we tell the work of what we do at the Garden,” said Hachadourian. “There are over 30,000 naturally occurring species and over 150,000 man-made hybrids. They’re one of the most prized and cultivated groups of plants in the world.”
Orchids of radically different shapes and colors are on display in a variety of configurations.
They’re tucked into the thick greenery of the Conservatory, suspended from the ceiling, and rise up in towers in the recently restored Palm Dome.
A self-described “lover of bold color and mixtures of color,” Leatham said that “we wanted you to have an experience everywhere you look. Up, down, around, reflected in the pools, where you have the feeling of an optical illusion. We wanted an experience where you could walk around, so that you’re immersed inside of the whole installation and feel like you’re a part of it.”
Daytime at The Orchid Show is magical, but night time visits are also compelling, and possible on select Friday and Saturday nights in March and April, with music, cash bars, and food available for purchase. At NYBG Shop, there are thousands of orchids for sale, ranging from exotic specimens to easy-to-grow varieties for beginners.
“Once of the things I enjoy during the exhibition is that the fragrances change throughout the day,” says Hachadourian. “As the sun moves through the conservatory with a change in light and shadow, you will notice some plants more, other plants less, but as the sun moves, many of the orchids change their fragrance throughout the day. A trip to the conservatory is a sensory experience.”
Indeed. This joyous, uplifting and timely show offers every New Yorker and visitor to the city some much needed sensory escapism. For more information, visit The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope.