The view outside is rather gloomy.

But inside the Cleveland Botanical Garden, things are in full bloom.

The garden's beloved Orchid Mania show opens Saturday and runs through March 10. Inside the comfy confines in Cleveland's University Circle there are some 3,000 orchids in just about every shape, size and color imaginable.

The show is the longest running at the indoor garden, said Dave Lowery, vice president of marketing, and is a favorite not only among orchid lovers, but those looking for a break from the cold and snow.

"It is super popular," he said. "It is like a ray of sunshine in the middle of winter."

Tucked right inside the building's entrance is a giant display of orchids to set the tone for what lies ahead. Guests are immediately immersed in a colorful display of the graceful flowering plant that is a treat for the eyes and nose as the fragrant scent fills the space.

As you progress deeper into the displays, you can learn more about the special features of one of the longest-lived plant groups on earth.

While many associate orchids with tropical places, Brian Gibbons, who is charged with overseeing the show, said Ohio actually has a fair number of native orchids.

One area of the show is set up like an art museum with rarer and more unusual varieties displayed on pedestals. "Guests can get up real close to these orchids," Gibbons said.

Among the varieties in this area are Cattleya walkeriana and the Vuylstekeara Fall in Love varieties.

Getting all the orchids in place is quite an undertaking for the staff, as the show opens just three weeks after the holiday Glow event ends and its hundreds of trees, Christmas displays and miles of lights are tucked away for the season.

Gibbons said for every orchid on display there is a spare just in case one loses its bloom — most typically last three to four weeks — or begins to wilt as the show progresses.

"I call it my on-deck section," he said. "They are waiting if something happens that we need to replace one."

Before an orchid is put out on display, each one of the hundreds and hundreds of them is thoroughly dunked in water. This is repeated every five or seven days during the show.

Gibbons said volunteers and workers then mist each of the orchids two to three times a day.

"This is a very labor-intensive show," he said.

While they work with three growers, including one in Oberlin and another in Hawaii, Gibbons said they are limited by what is available in a particular year.

A factor in helping to determine this year's lineup was the volcano in Hawaii that affected the plants grown there.

"This really affected orchid shows throughout the country," he said.

Orchids can also be found inside the garden's Glasshouse that is home to a replica cloud forest and the spiny desert.

There are 13 orchid-inspired dress designs on display that are the creations of students from the Kent State University School of Fashion Design and Merchandising. The garden's Guren Art Gallery will display silk paintings by Gunter Schwegler.

Guests are welcome to bring in their own orchids for a diagnosis for Ask the Orchid Doctor sessions, which will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 2, 9 and 23. Experts will also field questions at noon Feb. 16 and 17, as the Greater Cleveland Orchid Society Show and Sale is running from noon to 5 p.m.

"This might be the most orchids we have ever had on display," Lowery said.

 

Craig Webb can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com.