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Kew Orchid Festival: Celebrate the colour of Colombia

9 February to 10 March 2019
Release date: 
9 January 2019

  • Kew’s first ever orchid festival on the theme of Colombia
  • Colombia is the world’s most biodiverse country for orchids with 4,270 species
  • Dazzling displays inspired by Colombia’s wildlife and plant diversity
  • Carnival music, street food, coffee and crafts during half term and after-hours events
  • Festival to showcase Kew’s vital science work in Colombia to protect biodiversity

Colombia’s landscape is as diverse as the flora and fauna that inhabit it, from tropical beaches to snow-capped mountains and everything in between. Home to more orchid species than anywhere else in the world, Colombia’s unparalleled biodiversity and vibrant culture is the inspiration for Kew’s 24th annual orchid festival in February 2019.

Stepping into the Princess of Wales Conservatory, visitors will find themselves transported to an entrancing paradise evoking the sights, smells and sounds of Colombia. The experience is an immersive journey through the different zones of the glasshouse where visitors will encounter staggeringly beautiful displays representing aspects of Colombian wildlife and culture. Over 5,700 orchids will feature in the festival including the exquisite Flor de Mayo (Cattleya trianae), Colombia’s national flower. 

Colombia is famed for its wildlife diversity and boasts the greatest number of bird species of any country in the world. To celebrate this, the central display of the festival will be a ‘carnival of animals’ depicting a toucan in flight, a hanging sloth and swimming turtle, all composed of stunning orchids, bromeliads and other tropical plants.

A breath-taking cascade of hundreds of colourful hanging vandas will represent Colombia’s famous rainbow river, Caño Cristales, and visitors will also delight in an enchanting forest scene complete with life-sized jaguars. Elsewhere, a dazzling display of hundreds of colourful butterflies will be suspended from the glasshouse ceiling, and an intricate, golden floating display bursting with bright yellow orchids in the glasshouse pond will depict the legend of El Dorado.

To capture the essence of the festival, Kew has also enlisted the help of a Colombian multidisciplinary artist, Vanessa Moncayo González, who has transformed the glasshouse film room with colourful Bogotá-style street-art murals.

Elisa Biondi, Supervisor of the Princess of Wales Conservatory says:

Colombia has formed a unique inspiration for the next orchid festival at Kew. The Princess of Wales Conservatory will be transformed by awe-inspiring orchid displays that will showcase Colombia’s biodiversity and Kew’s work in the country to help to protect, conserve and study its plants.” 

Kew is working closely with the Colombian Embassy in London to bring to life some of Colombia’s rich culture at the festival. The Ambassador of Colombia to the UK, Néstor Osorio Londoño says:

“Joint scientific research and sustainable development are key priorities of the roadmap that guides the bilateral cooperation agenda between Colombia and the United Kingdom. The Embassy of Colombia and Kew Gardens have partnered to produce the 2019 orchid festival, a magnificent showcase of Colombia’s biodiversity and culture.”

Throughout the orchid festival, there will also be an exciting programme of events and activities featuring Colombian music, dance and cuisine.

Entry to the orchid festival is included in the standard ticket to the Gardens.

Kew Science in Colombia

Kew is a global leader in plant and fungal science and this year’s festival will also showcase some of its ground-breaking work with Colombia to help identify, protect and promote the country’s biodiversity. Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, only behind Brazil (which is seven times larger than Colombia). Over 6,000 endemic plant species, found nowhere else on Earth, have been identified in Colombia (the UK has fewer than 100).

Since the signing of the peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla group, huge areas of the country previously unknown to science are now waiting to be explored. Working with their Colombian counterparts, Kew’s scientists are undertaking intrepid field trips to discover new plants, aid conservation efforts, and promote sustainable development in the country. 

Orchids after hours 

For six evenings only, visitors can experience a taste of Colombia after dark at Kew. As night falls, the carnival atmosphere will be in full swing with Latin big band and tropical fusion music raising the roof of the glasshouse.

Guests can craft their own floral headdress or mask, sample authentic Colombian coffee, try their hand at Colombian dancing, and tuck into classic street food. All while sipping on a delicious Colombia-inspired cocktail from the pop-up bar.

Short talks from horticulturists who created the orchid displays, and from Kew’s own intrepid Colombian scientists, will uncover the mysteries behind the fascinating family of orchids.

Orchids After Hours will run on 14,15,20,21,27,28 February 2019, 18:00 - 21.30. 

Tickets are £18 and must be bought online in advance from www.kew.org         

February Half Term

La Batalla de Flores (Battle of the Flowers), part of the Barranquilla Carnival, will serve as the theme for the half term activities on offer for families. The annual festival in Barranquilla is the second largest carnival in the world (surpassed only by Rio) with thousands flocking to the city each year for four days of music, dance and fun. Carnival workshops during half term will feature flower costume making, drumming, and dancing, with an hourly carnival parade leading to the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Half term activities will run from 16 – 24 February 2019, 10:30 – 16:00 daily.

Tours of the Tropical Nursery

The festival will offer the chance to go behind the scenes in Kew’s Tropical Nursery where thousands of rare and exotic plants are cultivated and nurtured by Kew’s horticulturalists across 25 different climatic zones. The nursery plays a key role in not only supplying the plants seen on display in the glasshouses, but also contributes towards Kew’s vital conservation efforts and scientific research.

Orchid Nursery tours will run on Thursdays throughout the festival at 12.45, 13.30 and 14.15. 

General Tropical Nursery tours will run on Saturdays at 12.45, 13.30 and 12.15. 

Tickets are £10 and must be booked online in advance from www.kew.org            

Ends

For images and more information please contact the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Press Office on 020 8332 5607 or email pr@kew.org

Notes to Editors

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding collections as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international and a top London visitor attraction. Kew’s 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Wakehurst, Kew’s Wild Botanic Garden, attract over 2.1 million visits every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. Kew receives approximately one third of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.