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Indian orchids bring riot of colour in London garden

Orchids and plants unique to India have been placed in the context of their role in Indian culture, religion and everyday life.

world Updated: Feb 02, 2017 20:48 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
chrysanthemums

The Kew’s Orchid Festival 2017 will feature 900 chrysanthemums from Assam, Sikkim and other Indian states. (Prasun Sonwalkar / HT Photo)

A giant Indian flag comprising 900 chrysanthemums from Assam, Sikkim and other states is coming up for a major Orchid Festival from Saturday, bringing the sounds, colours, food and music from India at the iconic Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, southwest London.

 The festival includes an Indian street that surrounds visitors entering the steamy Princess of Wales Conservatory with the sounds of milkmen’s bicycle bells, newspaper boys, temple bells and muezzin calls. A decorative rickshaw decked with orchids is one of the highlights.

Phalaenopsis drops hang delicately from the ceiling, while a traditional Indian marriage swing sways among the Vandas, with sari material adding an extra splash of colour, Kew officials said during a press preview on Thursday.

This year’s pond display will explode with intense hues in a larger-than-life floral arrangement made up of Vanda, Dendrobium, Cymbidium and Paphiopedilum orchids, marrying traditional and modern culture, they said.

Elisa Biondi, Princess of Wales Conservatory supervisor, said: “This year’s Orchids festival will immerse visitors in the sights, senses and sounds of India’s exotic and vibrant culture creating an explosion of unique and colourful beauty.”

A cycle rickshaw decked with orchids from India at Kew’s Orchid Festival 2017, Royal Botanic Gardens, London. (Prasun Sonwalkar / HT Photo)

“We hope this journey will highlight the significance of plants in all walks of life, from the spiritual and medicinal to the textiles and cuisine, all the while showing the importance of plant diversity and Kew’s work to protect, conserve and study plants,” she said.

 Telangana-origin Bala Kompalli, botanical horticulturalist at Kew, told HT: “My work here is to look after lots of living collections here at Kew which are valuable and historically important. With my background in plant science in Andhra university where I did and MA in Botany it is like a dream come true to work at Kew, a global centre for conservation, research and education.”

The events includes violin recital by Jyotsna Srikanth. Orchids and plants unique to India have been placed in the context of their role in Indian culture, religion and everyday life, and marks one of the first cultural events during the India-UK Year of Culture this year. 

Kew officials said the visual feast of colour feature elaborate floral displays inspired by a typical Indian market, including Kew’s own decorative rickshaws. An infographic map transports the visitor from the dreary British winter to the vibrancy and colour of India.