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Orchid showcase for Valentine’s Day

Aphrodite’s Slipper is one of many species of orchids on display.
Photo: Trevor Leach · The Sentry

With the annual Orchid Showcase at Denver Botanic Gardens, visitors of all ages can leave behind the depths of winter by immersing themselves in the colors of nature. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, Denver Botanic Gardens has filled the indoor spaces of their York Street location with a variety of rare and exotic orchids from January 9 until February 16. 

Most of the orchids are on display in the sun-drenched Orangery, a large greenhouse complex where world-class horticulturalists cultivate an extensive collection of plants in view of the public. Constructed in 2010, the Orangery is meant to replicate a modern Renaissance greenhouse. Notable for having Italian cypresses, orange trees, and other plants from around the world, it can also be reserved for private events.  

In the Orangery, large glass panels separate the indoor walkway from the working spaces, filled with rows and rows of orchids and lush greenery. Window displays provide information on the different types of orchids, like Phalaenopsis, also called moth orchids, and Bulbophyllum, known for their bulbous shape. Depending on the species, some orchids hang in terracotta pots with their roots dangling like hair, while others sit in rows of planters with other companions, such as bromeliads and ivy. A diverse assortment of blooms provides a densely-packed experience. Several benches also allow for a moment of relaxation and reflection amidst the floral atmosphere. 

One of the most awe-inspiring species is Aphrodite’s Slipper, or Paphiopedilum, with large striped petals. Some are as dark as red wine, while others are pale white and green. Native to the mountainous landscape of India and Nepal, the horticulturalists manage to keep these plants thriving in the much drier climate of Colorado. This species takes its name from the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, as well as the general subfamily of orchids called Lady’s Slippers, so named for their unique shape. Despite having an exotic appearance, some species of Lady’s Slippers grow across North America, including the mountains of Colorado.  

In the adjacent building, Marnie’s Pavilion also has a display of orchids naturally integrated with other flowering plants. Connected to the Tropical Conservatory, the pavilion has an indoor waterfall and a two-story view of the gardens. 

Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., local nursery Fantasy Orchids will be there in case visitors want to purchase their own. Located in Louisville, Colorado, Fantasy Orchids has been sharing these plants with the Rocky Mountain region for over 30 years. Their facility is open to the public and houses at least 30,000 plants, according to their website.  

Denver Botanic Gardens is always a memorable place to enjoy time with loved ones. Even the rest of the gardens are worth a stroll after seeing the orchids, despite being mostly barren. A thin blanket of snow transforms the landscape into a tranquil beauty only found in winter. 

The Orchid Showcase lasts until February 16 at the Denver Botanic Gardens in the Orangery and Marnie’s Pavilion.

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