Nothing says “I love you” like flowers, and nothing is as packed with flowers as the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Orchid Show, which happens to open on Valentine’s Day. Instead of just handing your sweetie a fancy bouquet, why not walk around inside one?
When everything outside is white and frigid, an afternoon in a 75-degree greenhouse, sharing misty, plant-scented air with thousands of brilliantly colored flowers is like taking a (very) short vacation in the tropics. As you walk through the Regenstein Center greenhouses and galleries together, you’ll find yourselves in a quiet, romantic universe populated by hundreds of cascading orange and yellow Dendrobium orchids hanging from trees overhead. A gently cascading waterfall adds the perfect soundtrack to your tropical mini-escape.
Your senses will be stunned time and time again: With more than 10,000 orchids, this place is overflowing. You’ll find yourselves gasping with wonder as you round one corner and find an entire hanging hedge of swollen purple Oncidium and spotted Vanda orchids in pink, orange, red, yellow, and blue. And you may begin imagining a honeymoon together while hypnotized by the vivid fuschia Laelia pumila orchids used to make leis in Hawaii. And a whiff of the chocolate-scented Oncidium sharry baby or Vanilla planifolia – the orchid plant that vanilla beans come from – will certainly whet your appetite for a fresh, seasonal snack (or dessert) at the Garden View Cafe.
By the end of your visit, you’ll understand why orchids have historically been thought of as seductive — the bright colors and sinuous shapes were downright scandalous in the 19th century. Some British Victorians even believed exposure to orchids overstimulated the senses to the point of mania. Throughout the orchid show, there are opportunities to learn more about the history of orchids, as well as how to photograph them, cook with them, and meditate on them. On Valentines’s Day, you can choose to lose yourselves in a romantic walk together, or take a group tour and learn how to grow orchids at home on your windowsill. What better way to keep your Valentine in mind all year long?