University of Cambridge Museums

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Orchids 2017: Another India

An exploration of India’s natural heritage

12 February – 12 March 2017, 10am – 4.30pm
Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Step out of the cold into the welcoming warmth of the Botanic Garden’s Glasshouses which will be transformed into a technicoloured tapestry of vibrant displays to celebrate the plants and culture of South Asia.

Orchids 2017: Another India is an exploration of India’s natural heritage and is part of a wider University of Cambridge Museum event India Unboxed to mark the 70th anniversary of India’s independence from Britain. Visitors to the Botanic Garden will be introduced to the many varied species of orchids growing throughout India’s diverse habitats, as different parts of the Glasshouses will showcase species from the cool growing orchids found in the Himalayas to the tree hanging species found in the steamy tropics.

Among the varied and vibrant orchids on display will be structures, images and objects representing different aspects of Indian culture alongside some of India’s key economic crops. Rice, pepper, cotton, turmeric and tea plants jostle with tea crates and hessian sacks to introduce the economic and cultural importance of these crops to the visitor.

“Orchids 2017 has been several months in the making and we hope it will open our visitors’ eyes to the ecosystems and diversity of the flora from the Indian subcontinent.”
Alex Summers, Glasshouse Supervisor

Many of the orchids on display have been grown and looked after by Alex and his team at the Botanic Garden and getting them to flower for February has involved time, skill and patience.

“We will have around 40 different orchid species on show and it’s been a labour of love to get them to flower and look their best. I’m often asked how we do this and the trick is to get the temperature environments and watering correct and so to do this on a large scale requires good understanding of each orchid’s native habitat!”

As well as tending to and installing the orchids, Alex has overseen the inclusion of art and artefacts all which add to the regional feel of the displays.

“The aim behind Orchids 2017 is to not just show the diverse ecosystems of the Subcontinent but also to show how they feed into the culture. We’ve worked closely with colleagues from the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, who are holding an exhibition through March and April which also marks the 70th anniversary of India’s independence from Britain, to make sure everything on show is as authentic as possible. For example we’ve built a mock house front and painted an Indian pithora mural on the front; we have suspended two large Gond images of an elephant and antelope to inject some art into the displays and we’ve assembled a temple structure which will preside over the pool in the Wetlands house.”

All the plant and cultural displays will be accompanied by small fact boards detailing the ecosystems of South Asia and some of the economic crop species to visitors.

The Garden is also running a programme of special events to complement the orchid displays:

Lunchtime guided tours every Wednesday between 12 February – 12 March at 1pm

Twilight! Make a moonlit mandala Wednesday 15 February 2017, 4.30pm – 7.30 pm

How to grow orchids Wednesday 22 February 2017, 6.30pm – 8.30pm

Himalayan Plant Hunters Wednesday 8 March 2017, 10am – 1pm

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