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Issue Date: February 2011

Flower Power

Orchid Mania returns to the Cleveland Botanical Garden.
Lyndsey Frey

Step inside the Cleveland Botanical Garden this month and you'll find vibrant colors, intoxicating fragrances and whimsical forms fit for royalty. The garden's annual Orchid Mania show returns Feb. 26 through March 27 to remind us all that these exotic, unusual blooms are the queens of the horticultural hierarchy. "Orchids are elusive," says Tres Fromme, a nationally renowned horticultural designer who created this year's exhibit. "We're really focused on engaging people with almost decadent gestures of orchids that people will find very luxurious and very beautiful."

Fromme says he wants to take audiences on an exotic journey with his exhibit theme Purple Reign, a reference to the color once reserved for people of royal blood. The Cleveland Botanical Garden will showcase hundreds of the world's thousands of orchid species during the monthlong event. Expect to see Cymbidiums and Phalaenopsis, the flashy, broad-petaled flowers most commonly sold by retailers, as well as more unusual species such as Phragmipediums, characterized by long, mustachelike petals, and Zygopetalums, which have a strong fragrance and leathery leaves.

"Orchids have always carried a true air of the exotic ... partly because they were so hard to come by early on," Fromme says, adding that some species are native to the jungles of South America and were historically difficult and expensive to obtain. "They're not a plant you see growing in a garden or on the side of the road. They've just always captured people's imagination."

Although they're easier to come by today, horticulturists still consider the plant a challenge for amateur growers. Experts will be on hand throughout the monthlong Orchid Mania event to offer advice on how best to grow the regal flower.

"One of our goals is really to try to immerse people in the flowers," Fromme says. "They won't just be looking at them. They'll be walking through them."

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