An Orchid Display Designed to Dazzle

The St. Paul Winter Carnival Orchid Show is the cure for the mid-winter blahs

With more than 28,000 naturally occurring species, the Orchidaceae family is one of the largest and most diverse of the world’s flowering plants. On January 27 and 28, Marjorie McNeely Conservatory visitors will get a chance to see the cream of the crop at the St. Paul Winter Carnival Orchid Show, a Como tradition for nearly 50 years.

Curating and designing Como’s display this year is horticulturist Alejandro Balderas, who cares about orchids even in his off-hours. “Before I moved to Minnesota from California, I had about 70 plants and 30 cultivars of my own,” he says. While he’s trimmed his personal collection to a more manageable size, there’s a good chance it will grow again once he’s had a look at the newest species and varietals for purchase at the Orchid Show’s marketplace. “There are so  many shapes and sizes, and there’s always something new on the market,” he says. “It makes it hard to resist.” 

Like the tulip mania that hit Europe in the 1600s, orchids had a similar history in the 1800s, when so-called “orchidelirium” sent prices for rare tropical species soaring into the stratosphere. But now with so many hearty varieties widely available in garden shops and grocery stores, orchids are no longer quite as intimidating to curious home gardeners. 

“Orchid growing has become much more transparent because of the internet and with people having access to the literature online,” he says, from groups like the Orchid Society of Minnesota, a co-sponsor of the Winter Carnival Show. “They’re one of the few houseplants that actually flowers consistently,” he says, with colors made to attract pollinators and people stuck indoors during the winter. “Minnesotans seem to really love their orchids,” he says. 

For the show, Balderas and other horticulturists are planning to display more than two dozen of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory’s best species, drawn from a large working  collection predominantly featuring plants from Central and South America. Set in the Fern Room, the design will feature a sculpture dedicated to the Conservatory on its 50th anniversary in 1965.

Advanced admission reservations are required to attend the St. Paul Winter Carnival Orchid Show, and tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for Como Friends members, seniors, and children under the age of 12. Visit this link for more information. 

Your support for Como Friends helps to make the Conservation Champions program possible, supporting Como’s talented staff’s participation in conservation partnerships and in their continued professional development. Thank you!

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