Blossoming with Thai Orchids

On a lovely Saturday evening in March, my boyfriend and I went on a college-budget date night to the New York Botanical Garden’s 15th annual Orchid Show. Hoping to quiet our itch for traveling, we would be able to experience the abundant colors and aromas of Thailand Orchids, just twenty-minutes from Manhattan.

As we opened the heavy eight-foot doors of the conservatory, we were immediately greeted by “The White Elephants of Thailand” display. We gazed upon two distinct elephants that were sculpted out of green bushes and ornamented with white, yellow, and purple orchids. The configuration immediately captivated our attention, landing our phones in our back pockets. In surrounding educational plaques, we discovered that the white elephants of Thailand are not actually white in nature, but are a light grey, making them fairer than most. Though white elephants are an endangered species, their sculpted representations brought them new life and shed light upon their fading.

When I stepped into the adjacent room, I saw orchids spilling out from the sides of the walkway. Above us, Thai lanterns, also known as khom loi, hung from branches. Rows of red, yellow, and vibrant pink illuminated the night. As we maneuvered our way through the walkway, we admired the orchids bred in Thailand as well as lesser known plants, whose brilliant markings replicate human brush strokes. It was in these details, such as the common household plants and small shrines, that allowed the exhibit to share the rich cultural history of Thai gardens.

As the people dispersed from the path, the traditional Thai pavilion came into view. With a triangular roof and a bamboo-base, the pavilion was located in the center of a small pond. The walls of this customary place of reflection were lavished by native and hybrid orchids. I thought of the first time I caught sight of an orchid. Unfortunately, that orchid was given to me during a time when I had to be bed-rested. I was not only out of place, but so was my dainty orchid that had to endure a Northeastern winter. Nonetheless, with time, we both blossomed, because nature gives as much as it takes. Inhaling a breath of sweet aroma, I took my last few glances of the pavilion, ready to retake the New York City bustle. –Amanda Miller

Amanda Miller '19 comes from New Canaan, Connecticut. She studies English Literature and Writing at The New School and is interested in poetry, health, and women’s issues.

The Orchid Show: Thailand
At The New York Botanical Garden
February 18th-April 9th, 2017
Ticket information at