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Art and orchids come together at Stowe Garden

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

This winter, art and orchids will come together at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont. The “Art and Orchids: Victorian Botanicals” exhibit will run Feb. 3-March 19. It features antique and collectible botanical illustrations of the Victorian Era. You’re invited to take a horticultural journey through that era with a selection of antique prints, complemented by a gorgeous, Victorian-inspired, living display celebrating the orchid mania of the 19th century.

“Victorian Botanicals” is this year’s theme for the garden’s annual exhibition of art and orchids. It includes an exhibition of rare framed plates from local collector Craig McCausland, as well as the best of garden’s collection of more than 10,000 orchids.

Botanical illustrations have served as documentation of an incredibly diverse array of plant species across cultures and throughout history. Such illustrations lined the pages of period publications and were paired with tales of their discovery, medicinal properties, characteristics and more. Colorful images, often handpainted or made from etched plates, beganto grace the pages of magazines and books throughout the Victorian Era. Today those prints remain highly collectible and desirable. The discovery, collection and documentation of orchids in that era drove explorers to all corners of the world in a craze dubbed “orchidelirium.”

The orchid conservatory at the Stowe Garden will feature a hand-selected collection of orchids and tropical plants that traces how orchids became all the rage in 19th century Europe and North America.

The Art

The exhibit will feature works from four major collections.

English botanical illustrator Anne Pratt (1806-93) was one of the Victorian Era’s best-known and most prolific botanical illustrators. Pratt wrote and illustrated more than 20 books, and today her work is highly collectible. Discover custom-framed, antique chromolithographs–– images printed in colors from a series of lithographic stones or plates––taken from four of Pratt’s publications from the mid-1800’s.

German illustrator Carl Hoffmann’s stunning chromolithographs are a bit harder to find. Little is known or published about him or his work. Nonetheless, his colorful prints of fungi, grasses, root vegetables, trees and more, dating to 1886, continue to please viewers and are highly collectible.

The Botanical Register is a stunning horticultural magazine, produced in the first half of the 1800’s. Guests will discover extremely rare, hand-painted, custom-framed engravings from 1835, on display and paired with the corresponding text documenting the discovery of each plant and their introduction to Great Britain.

A single volume from The American Flora, an extremely rare book from a set of four, will be displayed, alongside a digital display of its contents.

“Works like these are quickly disappearing,” said McCausland. “If they aren’t preserved in some fashion, we’ll lose them forever.”

All these works, framed with custom preservation-quality materials, are offered for sale. Quickly disappearing from the horticultural landscape, these rare works have now been preserved for generations to come.

The exhibition will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, free with admission to the garden. For details, see the Website at or call 704-825-4490.

Continuing education classes

In conjunction with the exhibition, the garden is offering a full slate of classes and other events. Pre-registration is recommended for the garden’s educational programs, as space is limited, and many classes fill quickly. Register via the Website at or call 704-829-1252.

The “Living Gifts: Terrarium-Building Workshop” will be held Jan. 28 and Feb. 11, 10 a.m. to noon, both days. The cost is $30.

Early explorers used Wardian cases (named for 18thcentury botanist Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward) or terraria to transport their finds. Learn the craft of terrarium construction, including a how-to guide for keeping your terrarium healthy and vibrant. A glass dish or terrarium and a variety of plants and materials will be available, although personal objects are highly encouraged. “Orchids 101” will be held Jan. 29, 1-3 p.m. The cost is $25.

Orchids are fascinating flowers in the plant world. Learn about the orchid’s growth requirements, their habitat and how to handle these flowers at home. Acquire the basics of successful orchid nurturing and growth.

The “Botanicals in Watercolor” class will be instructed by Sandy Brindle, owner of Footloose Art. The cost is $25. It’s coming Feb. 18, 10 a.m.-noon.

You’ll learn illustration techniques. Then, using the wet-in-wet watercolor technique, paint a close-up of a beautiful orchid on a provided canvas.

“Orchid Care and Diagnostics” will be held Feb. 19, 1-3 p.m. The cost is $25.

Orchids are among the most unique flowers in the plant world. They have specialized growth and care requirements. In this class, bring in your troubled orchid to have it diagnosed, and learn the proper techniques for long-term care. Our expert staff will provide helpful tips and inspire confidence for all orchid enthusiasts.

“Natural Expression Field Sketching” will be taught by artist and designer David Williams, who is also the owner of Wingin’ It Works. It will be held March 11, 9:30 a.m.-noon. The class’s cost is $25, plus a $25 materials fee and is open to budding artists, 12 years old and up.

Throughout history, the natural world has served as a living classroom for novices, naturalists and professional artists. Their observations are on cave walls, parchment and in journals.

Join Williams as we explore the spontaneity of field sketching in the beautiful botanical gardens made possible by the late philanthropist, Daniel Stowe. We’ll look at specific techniques of historical and modern nature journaling and put those artistic styles into practice. Expect sketching/watercolor demonstrations and hands-on instruction. Personal journals are welcome but unnecessary.

“Growing and Repotting Orchids” will be held March 12, 1-3 p.m. The cost is $25, plus a $25 materials fee.

You’ll learn how to grow and succeed with orchids at home. Conservatory staffers will discuss tips for growing orchids and demonstrate repotting. Participants will get hands-on experience and leave with two orchids: one that they pot themselves and one already in bloom to take home and enjoy.

As Seen In: Page 26 Gaston Lifestyles Magazine Author: Jim Hoffman,Photo Credit: Jim Hoffman

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