“It’s a beautiful time to highlight orchids, which I don’t think get enough attention,” said Christopher Griffin, the “plantfluencer” known as Plant Kween. On Thursday night, orchids were getting all of the attention at the Plaza Hotel ballroom, where the New York Botanical Garden was hosting its annual Orchid Dinner fundraiser, sponsored by Guerlain.
“There’s so much that we can learn from these plants: how they bloom, how they grow, when they’re not blooming,” added Griffin, dressed in a colorful Christopher John Rogers skirt. “People are like, oh, they’re dead! I’m like, girl — they’re not, they’re just in hibernation, darling.”
The New York social crowd had pulled their best floral frocks out of winter hibernation for the occasion. Guests included Lily Kwong, who led the NYBG’s current exhibition “The Orchid Show: Natural Heritage” as guest designer; Pauline Chalamet; Indre Rockefeller; Brent Neale; ballet dancers Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside; Gillian Hearst, and chef Roze Traore. The evening began with a sale of rare and special orchids to benefit the NYBG, and the top picks sold early in the cocktail hour.
“I was invited to step into the role of guest designer for the 20th anniversary Orchid Show. It feels really special because I’m the first woman and the first person of color to do that,” said Kwong, who attended the dinner with husband Nick Kroll. “I felt called to explore my Chinese heritage, because when I realized I was the first to have those identity markers I really wanted to explore femininity as it connected to orchids, as well as Chinese heritage. So a lot of the exhibition is inspired by Chinese landscape paintings as well as Chinese garden design principles, and I think we told a really authentic meaningful story through the exhibition.”
Each dinner table featured a one-off, over-the-top orchid floral arrangement by a different designer. Kwong had delegated the task to her team, who looked to wild-looking orchids for their arrangement.
“Instead of relying on Phalaenopsis or some of the more common species, we took a meadow approach,” Kwong said. “So it’s layered with ferns and other supporting species, and tonally I think it feels different than some of these incredibly opulent designs,” she added, surveying the room.
“We approached this with the idea of sustainability slash a very deep inspiration by the Azores, which is also super sustainable,” said Joseph Augello, who designed a table in collaboration with Hilary Pereira. “The table is all quite natural — we’ve got ivy, moss, shells, orchid plants,” he added of their design, rendered in light blue and white tones. Orchids were potted in ceramic heads. “Which everyone has commented as being ‘White Lotus,'” he added. “And you know what? We were just going with classic, and it turned into a trend.”
A trend for a good cause: the dinner ended up raising more than $800,000 for the botanical garden.