New exhibition to explore the seductive power of orchids


The Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) ‘Danger and Desire: The Seductive Power of Orchids’ exhibition will open at RHS Garden Wisley on 8th February 2024. The displays will explore the symbolism of orchids, their often unusual appearance and allure to obsessive collectors through historical portraits, drawings, and rare books.

Since tropical orchids first reached Western Europe in the 1700s, the elegant and complex mechanism of the orchid has been a source of fascination. Owing to their rarity, mysterious nature and appearance, orchids were a symbol of wealth in the 19th and early 20th centuries, fetching astonishing prices and becoming an obsession for the rich.

The exhibition will shed light on the ever-evolving perceptions of this beguiling plant, from sought after collector’s item, to aphrodisiac, to mass popularity today. Highlights of the exhibition will include Bateman’s Orchids of Mexico and Guatemala – one of the most expensive books on orchids ever produced – as well as drawings and artwork from the RHS Lindley Library collections.

Fiona Davison, RHS Head of Libraries and Exhibitions, said: “Orchids have long captured the public imagination, and we are delighted to be presenting this exhibition which traces the ever evolving allure of these remarkable plants.”
The exhibition will be held at the Wisley Gallery, in RHS Garden Wisley’s Old Laboratory, from 8th February to 1st May 2024, and entry is included with admission to the garden.