Last Updated on February 13, 2022
Kew Gardens’ Orchid Festival returns for 2022
Returning for the first time in two years (after skipping last year due to lockdown), Kew Gardens’ 2022 orchid festival celebrates the biodiversity hotspot, Costa Rica, with vibrant displays and accompanying soundscapes inspired by the flora and fauna of Central America. This festival also showcases RBG Kew’s collaborative scientific projects to protect Costa Rica’s diverse species.
Taking place from Saturday 5 February to Sunday 6 March 2022, the orchid festival allows visitors an escape from the UK’s winter weather and into the varied and verdant landscape of Costa Rica, from the tropical dry forest of the North Pacific to the rainforests of the southern coastline.
Alberto Trinco, Acting Supervisor of the Princess of Wales Conservatory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew says: “Every year we enjoy brightening up the gloomy winter months with creative, vibrant and beautiful displays for Orchids, and this time around feels all the more pertinent after last year’s closure – the first ever in the 26-year run of the festival.” The Princess of Wales Conservatory is temperature-controlled to the climate of Costa Rica, so you’ll definitely feel a respite from the cold weather as you are taken into a temperate climate inside.
An assortment of native animals like monkeys, sea turtles, toads and hummingbirds scattered through the orchid trail awaits you inside. Each animal is intricately hand-crafted from plants by Master Florist Henck Röling, making the atmosphere seem like you’re in a magical version of Costa Rica. Of these animals, the sea turtles are particularly impressive as they dangle in the air in an almost dreamlike fashion. The prized resplendent quetzal, one of the world’s most beautiful birds, is also displayed in a giant version that’s half the size of a human.
Various elements make the display feel like a festival, from the numerous orchid arches that make you feel like you’re in a woodland party to the orchid themed installations by Costa Rican artist Dino Urpí. A stunning central display in the glasshouse pond is also filled with brilliant vibrant orchids and bromeliads.
Elements of culture are also woven into the festival. Of note is the typical oxcart or ‘carretas’, which is used by farmers to get their crops to the market before trains and trucks were in existence as well as the Boruca masks, created by the indigenous peoples of Costa Rica to scare away Spanish invaders.
With regards to the orchids, I’ve never seen such a wide variety of orchids in such abundance in my life (although this IS my first orchid festival). There was one variety that seemed like a pink tinkerbell to me because it could be an illusion of a fairy surrounded by sparkling pink dust from a certain perspective. The smells were wonderful and I found myself lingering a bit longer underneath the orchid arches to take in the wonderful natural fragrance emitting from the orchids.
A brief section also displays a selection of the stately palms and ferns growing in the central valley of Costa Rica. At this point, I really felt I’d been transported to a place far away from the chilly UK. The entire main orchid trail is wheelchair accessible, but there are bonus bits at the end which are optional but worth doing if you have the time and energy to climb stairs. In particular, there is a viewing platform that overlooks the central display in the glasshouse which provides an exquisite view of the orchids from behind.
Home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity, despite covering just 0.03% of the planet, Costa Rica is a role model for the conservation of biodiversity as around a quarter of its land is part of a protected forest or reserve. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has many collaborative scientific projects located in Costa Rica, which include constructing a ‘family tree’ for all of its orchid species to learn how to better protect them and documenting plants in La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, one of the richest places on Earth for plant diversity.
If you’re looking for respite from the gloomy British winter, escape to the orchid festival for a taste of Costa Rica.
Princess of Wales Conservatory included in the entry ticket
Kew, Richmond, London, TW9 3AE
020 8332 5655
Saturday 5 February – Sunday 6 March 2022