Kew Orchid Festival 2020: Indonesia

Saturday 8 February – Sunday 15 March 2020.

Release date: 14 January 2020

  • Kew Gardens’ first ever orchid festival themed on the country of Indonesia
  • Dazzling displays inspired by Indonesia’s wildlife and plant diversity
  • The festival will showcase Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s vital science work in Indonesia to protect biodiversity
  • Indonesian music, dance and food during half term and after-hours events

In February 2020, Kew Gardens’ 25th annual orchid festival will celebrate the incredible wildlife and vibrant culture of Indonesia – an archipelago of more than 17,504 islands, including Java, Borneo, Sulawesi, Papua and Bali. Indonesia’s landscape is as diverse as the flora and fauna that inhabit it, from tropical rainforests to spectacular volcanos.

Stepping into the Princess of Wales Conservatory, visitors will find themselves transported to an entrancing paradise evoking some of the sights, smells and sounds of Indonesia. To capture a glimpse of the wonders of this vast region, the orchid festival at Kew Gardens will be an immersive journey through the different zones of the glasshouse, where visitors will find spectacularly beautiful orchid displays which each represent an aspect of Indonesian wildlife and culture.

As they explore the festival, visitors will encounter life-sized animals decorated with hundreds of tropical flowers, in celebration of Indonesia’s rich diversity of fauna. Bright orange orangutans, a crouching tiger and a rhinoceros are just some of the creatures that will star in the show. An erupting volcano created from orchids will form a dramatic central pond display; Indonesia has over 100 active volcanos. Elsewhere, an archway made up of hundreds of carnivorous pitcher plants will delight and intrigue visitors in equal measure.

During the festival there will also be an exciting programme of specially curated evening events. Orchids: After Hours will feature live gamelan music and traditional dancers, as well as talks on the creation of the festival, and an interactive look at how Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is fighting the extinction crisis. What’s more, renowned author and chef Petty Elliott will be giving live cooking demos, introducing guests to the food and culture of her Indonesian heritage.

Indonesia boasts a hugely diverse range of societies and cultures with over 300 languages spoken across its many islands. This is matched by its staggering biodiversity, including at least 4,000 species of orchid, as well as many other plants that can be found only on certain islands in the archipelago. For instance, the island of Sumatra is the only place you’ll find the infamous Titan Arum, Amorphophallus titanium, otherwise known as the ‘corpse flower’ thanks to the appalling smell of rotting flesh it produces when in bloom.

Royal Botanic Gardens, 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 collaborators in Indonesia to help identify, protect and promote the country’s biodiversity. Stretching from Sumatra in the west to the island of New Guinea in the east, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has been working across Indonesia for many years. Working with their counterparts on the ground, RBG Kew’s scientists are undertaking intrepid field trips to discover new plants, aid conservation efforts, and promote sustainable development. Much of Indonesia’s vast and varied landscape remains unexplored; just last year an RBG Kew scientist, André Schuiteman, discovered and described a new orchid that was completely unknown to science. It was named Bulbophyllum adolinae after Adolina, the wife of the governor of West Papua.

Kew Gardens has worked closely with the Indonesian Embassy in London to bring to life some of Indonesia’s rich culture at the festival. The Ambassador of Indonesia to the UK, H. E. Rizal Sukma, says:

“Through the orchid festival, I hope that visitors can have a wonderful journey experiencing the magnificent Indonesia.  As well as its flora, Indonesia is rich in biodiversity, wildlife, nature and culture which will be beautifully displayed in this festival.” 

Scott Taylor, Conservatories Manager says:

“Indonesia encompasses a myriad of cultures and societies across its thousands of islands, making it an utterly unique theme for this year’s orchid festival. The Princess of Wales Conservatory will be transformed by awe-inspiring orchid displays that will showcase the country’s biodiversity and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s work in the country to help to protect, conserve and study its plants.” 

Entry to the festival is included in the standard ticket to the gardens but visitors must book a timed ticket slot online in advance.

Orchids After Hours will run on 13, 14, 26, 27 February and 5, 6 March 2020, 6.30pm - 10pm. Tickets must be bought online in advance.

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 2.3 million visits every year. Kew Gardens was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrates its 260th anniversary in 2019. 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.