The orchid's rainbow rippled day

March is a cold and mostly chilling month to be in London but if you take the trouble to go to Kew Gardens you will fall into whatever spell has been cast  for you there. This year it was the orchid festival that swept every visitor into an astonishing floral rhapsody.

Though it cost almost 13 pounds to visit Kew, every pound was well spent and returned in the form of a magic-laden day crammed with orchids defying the rainbow in their dazzling paintbox.

First of all it was a cherry-blossom pink and white burnished day and to add to it the orchids ornamented the Glass House at Kew with purple, pink, lavender, yellow and orange gift-wrapped stunningly – in six foot high pillars, cascading down ledges, snuggled around poles, round caskets, small trellises, and laced with mixed begonia bronze and red sandwiches!

The greenhouse was hot and humid to pamper this haughty flower but every visitor was too busy gawking and photographing to even notice. The two of us who went without breakfast, did not even remember lunch till 3 p.m. after the last orchid had been tucked into our cameras. Often we dashed into the same people also madly soaking up orchids with their SLR’s, compact cameras or plain mobiles!

This treasure of a million and more orchids made it easy to understand how the plant hunters of ancient, more dangerous times, almost lost their lives, hunting this gorgeous flower. Orchid thieves have been imprisoned, fined and hunted by cops for their greed!

This astonishing beauty has been used as a party ornament, and also to make ice cream!

Orchid robbers are so terrifying that Kew Gardens is forced to show off its orchid treasures by safely keeping them behind glass that is shatterproof and guarded by peeping cameras. In 1993 a rare monkey orchid, six feet tall bloomed near London and two security guards had to protect it from greedy collectors!

The Orchid Thief, a book by Susan Orlean takes you deep into the grimy world of the orchid obsessed people who will do anything to steal this delightful flower. Unlike the rose which always looks like a rose, the orchid can dazzle you by looking like a slipper, a necklace, a hat, an octopus, even an onion! It can be scented, outrageously painted by nature’s bizarre art, and it can always leave you spellbound. They are always stunning and often weird!

You can go to Kew in the underground, from Waterloo or any other train station, and head towards Clapham Junction. There you change and go to Richmond and from Richmond you take one more train to Kew Gardens. Whatever else you miss, don’t miss going to this garden which was justly voted the UK’s favourite garden and in July 2003 was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ranking it alongside the Taj Mahal!

Pics and text: Daksha Hathi

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