Orchids Forever

Figure 1. A frozen Shaker Lakes, February 2021.

It’s mid-February in Cleveland.  For those outside of CLE, mention of this city in the middle of winter conjures visions of blowing snow and frozen lakes.  Yeah, that sounds about right (Figure 1).

Whether it’s the Cleveland winter we have come to expect or the strange alternative that is this year (a record high the other day), one thing’s constant:  we are all looking forward to spring.

The Cleveland Botanical Garden is well aware that we all need a little spring in our step at this point in the year.  That we need a little something to bridge the holidays with the advent of spring.  A little sunshine to brighten the otherwise gray days.

Enter the majestic orchid.  A whole building of them.

From the end of January to mid-March, the Cleveland Botanical Garden offers Orchids Forever, an extravaganza of the colorful and delicate orchids splayed out on walls and planters throughout the interior greenhouse of the garden.



The Botanical Garden has offered this spectacular event every year for the last 17 years.  I can’t say we have been to all or even many.  But I can say we were never more excited to go to this exhibit as we were in 2021.

For me, early 2021 was a mix of anxiety and hope.  Anxiety associated with ongoing SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic and hope associated with the rollout of the highly anticipated vaccines.  In February 2021, case counts from the first major wave of infections were starting to decline and the first dose vaccinations were being distributed en masse.  For those of us who had been holed up for almost a year, it seemed like a good time to pop our heads out to enjoy some Cleveland color.

And enjoy it we did (Figures 2 and 3).  The 2021 Orchids Forever required timed tickets to ensure visitors were spaced out.  The ticketing process was touchless and the Purell flowed freely.  The space itself is big and felt adequately ventilated due, in part, to the crowd control imposed by the said required timed tickets.

Figure 2. Mom enjoying a rare pandemic outing to Orchids Forever (2021).

Figure 3. Sporting my early 2020 haircut and new mask bling at Orchids Forever (2021).

We thoroughly enjoyed our romp through the exhibit and made sure to ooh and ah over every planting.  We even stopped at the gift store and found that we, too, could have a little color in the home.  In fact, after Orchids Forever ends, the Botanical Garden sells the individual orchids that make up the exhibit.  Members get a first crack at the sale before the general public.

Our household is not exactly known for its gardening prowess.  Still, who can resist these beautiful plants?  Not us!  I am happy to report that the orchid we bought in 2021 is still alive in 2023.  Unfortunately, she has not flowered since 2021.  We have been warned that orchids are a bit persnickety about their potting conditions (Figure 4).  Looks like our orchid will have to wait a bit longer–the orchid re-potting classes are sold out.

Figure 4. She’s alive! Our orchid from 2021 is still here in 2023. I know, I know…she needs to be re-potted.

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Dana Crawford

Professor of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences and Associate Director of the Cleveland Institute for Computational Biology, with interest in pharmacogenomics, electronic health records, and diverse populations. Also, an avid foodie!