Fans of tropical paradises are invited to leave the rain and the gales outside and head to Kew Gardens annual Orchid Festival which starts this weekend (Saturday).

Once again the Princess of Wales Conservatory has been transformed into a riot of colour for the show which will last a month until March 9. Intense exotic colour, sounds and scents will accompany guests as they journey through time, retracing the footsteps of the intrepid Victorian plant-hunters, right up to their modern-day counterparts.

Orchids are some of the most valuable plants in the world, hunted by botanists, desired by collectors and admired by all for their beauty, rarity, and symbolism.

This year the festival includes a cascade of Vanda orchids, drapes of tropical flowers, and a plant-hunter’s camp in the pond area, dotted with wardian cases and floating canoes bulging with plants destined for distant lands.Scientists will also be on hand on Wednesdays and Sundays to give visitors an insight into how certain species have been brought back from the brink of extinction using micro-propagation techniques.

 

While Orchids is a favourite on the Kew calendar, each festival is unique as Phil Griffiths, Kew’s Glasshouse Displays Coordinator explains: “The orchids have to be ordered and planted at just the right moment for just the right amount of time to catch them at their peak.

“Our challenge is to keep the glasshouse looking magical for a month and while we humans may not like the cold, controversially, the best weather for the plants longevity is crisp and dull with no sun. The display’s transience is part of what makes this festival so special, and its beauty depends on both man and nature.”

Amongst the items sure to dazzle guests will be the unveiling of a new species of hybrid orchid never before seen - the Phalaenopsis ‘Diamond Sky’.

There is plenty for children too as from February 15-23 from 11am-3.30pm daily they can become plant explorers and discover the awesome world of orchids. This includes getting to try on some explorer’s gear, get hands on with maps and compasses and find out about skills used on expeditions.

If you’ve ever wanted to get behind the scenes of the Orchid zones your chance has come as on Thursday 13, 20, 27 and March 6 volunteer guides will show you how the magic is achieved. Booking is advisable on  020 8332 5604 . Tours depart from White Peaks and those with a Q&A session cost £5 while those with a demonstration of orchid care cost £15.The garden shops will stock a wide range of orchids for purchase, including for a limited time the rare hybrid variety.

For more information on the festival visit  http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/whats-on/orchids/index.htm