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RHS Garden Wisley reveals plans for new Orchid House

A new space dedicated to RHS Garden Wisley’s collection of more than 3,000 orchids is to be created inside the Glasshouse.

“Currently there’s no dedicated space at Wisley for showing orchids that offers them the correct conditions,” explains Emma Allen, garden manager. “Given that orchids are the largest family in the plant kingdom, that they’ve had such a fascinating evolution and that they come from all over the world, it’s important that Wisley shows off its wonderful collection.”

The new space will feature a curved path through artificial branches and arches planted with epiphytes, and faux rock walls with planting pockets. Visitors will see popular and familiar orchids such as Cymbidium, Oncidium and Dendrobium in the stunning new setting alongside rarer genera such as Stanhopea and Paphiopedilum.

At present, RHS Wisley’s orchid collection is displayed on just two benches, with plants regularly swapped out to display those at their peak. A far greater range of plants in flower will be displayed in the new Orchid House, while some older, larger and rare specimens currently kept behind the scenes will go on permanent display for the first time ever.

Highlights will include RHS Wisley’s largest orchids, a Coelogyne tomentosa and a Grammatophyllum speciosum measuring 1.7m tall by 3.5m wide on display year-round, the rare Cynorkis uncinata ‘Rose of Madagascar’ and a Laelia gouldiana, which is now extinct in the wild.

The RHS hopes to commence work on converting the Glasshouse Gallery in spring 2023 and aims to open the new space in late 2023, thanks to the support of RHS members and donors.

Orchids are a particularly important group of plants to the RHS, evidenced by its role as International Registration Authority for orchid hybrids, registering between 3,700 and 4,000 new hybrids each year. The RHS also publishes the world’s longest-running orchid publication, The Orchid Review, which has been in continuous publication since 1893 and from 2023 will become an annual yearbook.

The charity also commissions an official Orchid Artist to produce botanically accurate portraits of plants given awards by the RHS Orchid Committee. The RHS Lindley Collections include over 7,000 orchid portraits painted over 120 years by nine different artists. A book exploring their history, ‘RHS Orchids’ by Charlotte Brooks, was published in April 2022.

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