Kew Gardens’ orchid festival is back this year with a new display that celebrates Costa Rica.
The festival will run from 5 February – 6 March at the Princess of Wales Conservatory (POWC) and will exhibit a wide variety of orchids and tropical plants.
The orchid festival is one of Kew Gardens’ key events that has been hosted every year since 1995, except for last year due to Covid restrictions.
“A wonderful way to escape the chilly winter weather, full of heat and colour” – that’s how Alberto Trinco, acting supervisor in the POWC would describe the upcoming festival.
And for Alberto, working on the orchid festival at Kew Gardens is not a coincidence.
Although he has been passionate about plants since childhood, his visit to the 2014 festival has been a turning point.
“Plants and the natural world have been a passion since I was a child”, said Trinco who studied Natural Sciences and Conservation and Evolution in Italy.
“During [university] plants were a hobby, I had a garden at my parents house and a small orchid collection as well.
“Whilst at university, I discovered the wonders of Kew Gardens, eventually visited the orchid festival in 2014, and it was then that I decided I wanted to work here”, he said.
On his Instagram account, Alberto describes himself as an “orchid addict”, an interest that started early in his life.
He said: “I’ve been growing orchids since I was a teenager.
“I can’t remember how they came to be in my life but, as it always happens, a common Phalaenopsis must have been gifted to somebody in the family and it triggered the interest!”
Thus, Alberto entered Kew Gardens as a student before being hired as an horticulturist in the POWC.
“Watering, feeding, pruning, planting are common tasks that we perform daily in the glasshouse, working with our wonderful tropical plants”, he said.
He said working here combined practical and scientific aspects of horticulture with artistic ones, such as creating displays with plants.
Last but not least, Alberto also takes part in planning and building the orchid festival.
If planning starts as soon as the previous festival ends, the displays are built in the month preceding its opening.
“It is always a very busy and hectic time with about a hundred, between volunteers and members of staff involved in the preparation of plants and creation for the displays around the glasshouse.
“During the festival, our main task is to keep the display looking their best”, he explained.
This year’s festival’s theme is Costa Rica and there is a lot in store for visitors.
“The route around the POWC will take the visitors quite literally on a tour around Costa Rica itself, as the glasshouse and the country have a similar shape and orientation!
“From a colourful sunrise on the Caribbean Coast, around through the rich forests of the central valley and ending with a setting sun on the Pacific Coast,” said Alberto.
He added that as well as enjoying over 5,000 orchids and plants in display this year, visitors will also be able to spot Costa Rican animals made of plants and plant-materials, art installations by Costa Rican artist Dino Real, and could attend “Orchids After Hours” – evenings where they could enjoy the display alongside food and music.
If Kew Gardens has already celebrated other countries such as Thailand and Indonesia in previous festivals, for Alberto the choice of Costa Rica this year stems from the fact that it is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and has 1,600 species of orchids.
He added: “Kew is a global leader in plant and fungal science and this year’s festival will also showcase some of its ground-breaking work with collaborators in Costa Rica to help identify, protect and promote the country’s biodiversity, particularly in the face of an ever-changing planet and the challenges of climate change.”
When asked about his favourite display this year, the horticulturist said: “It’s difficult to say as I think they all look brilliant! The sun rising over the pond must be up there.
But also the animals – we have a whole troupe of cheeky monkeys!, all the arches dressed with a bounty of orchids and tropical plants… it’s impossible to pick just one!”
The orchid festival will run from 5 February – 6 March.
Entry to the festival is included when purchasing a ticket to Kew Gardens but visitors must book separate timed entry slots for Kew Gardens and the festival.
Picture credits: RBG Kew