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From Holland with love

Elisa Biondi
17 January 2014
Blog team: 
Elisa Biondi explains why Kew, one of the most important botanic gardens in the world, buys orchids from Holland for its orchid festival.

With Kew's orchid festival fast approaching we are often asked by members of the public why Kew has to bring in orchids for this event.

Kew's tropical nursery

The highly specialised team in Kew’s tropical nursery looks after 321 different genera (one of the most diverse orchid collections in the world) and our objectives are entirely different from those of a commercial nursery. These objectives include:

  • conservation
  • scientific research
  • education and inspiration of the public

photo of orchid yellow
Phalaenopsis `Nightfall of Love`

For example, the family Orchidaceae is arguably the largest and most diverse family in the plant kingdom and Kew’s orchid collection is part of the world's heritage, with genera coming from almost every continent on the planet.

Therefore we only grow as many plants as we need for our core work of conservation and research. To lay in the numbers required to put on a spectacular and colourful display we have to turn to external suppliers.

Commercial suppliers

In contrast to Kew's diverse collection, a Dutch commercial nursery such as GreenBalanZ - our Phalaenopsis growers and suppliers - specialise in just one genus. Like many other big nurseries their production is very automated and the use of advanced technology is standard and has been developed over many years of painstaking research on this one genus of orchid.

orchid greenhouse
Orchids growing in a large GreenBalanZ greenhouse

GreenBalanZ creates beautiful plants for the commercial market in vast quantities to standardised sizes, flower colour and vigour. Their nurseries in Aalsmeer are massive - some areas are bigger than two football pitches. They produce more than 1.5 million plants for the UK market alone! And this is just what we need to put on an exhibit such as the Orchid Festival - thousands and thousands of flowering plants!

Photo of orchid red and white
Phalaenopsis `Polka Dots`

The aims of the orchid festival

Apart from offering visitors the obvious pleasure of seeing hundreds of the world's most beautiful flowers, Kew's Orchid Festival also aims to raise awareness of the entire orchid family, how they were discovered and categorised, and how modern botanic gardens are at the forefront of the conservation work to sustain their fragile habitats.

photo of orchid colour
Phalaenopsis `Cascade Pink Dancer`

Orchids in the Princess of Wales Conservatory

Fascinating fact: Would you believe that the Princess of Wales Conservatory`s tiny orchid display cases show more species diversity than in the whole of the rest of the Orchid Festival? Why not come and see for yourself.

- Elisa Biondi -

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7 February 2014
Elisa: Thank you for the interesting and informative article. I keenly look forward to seeing and photographing the many beautiful orchids that you and your colleagues have selected for ALL to enjoy at "KEW Orchid Festival 2014". Thank you for all your good, hard works.
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21 January 2014
Fascinated article Elisa! Keep up the fantastic work!! Gorgeous orchid pictures too!
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