First Look at “The 45th Anniversary Orchid Show: Women Breaking the Glasshouse Ceiling” will focus on females in Selby Gardens’ history

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“An Orchid Afternoon”

Written by Christina Failla
Photography by Christina Failla
October 7, 2020

The 45th Anniversary Orchid Show: Women Breaking the Glasshouse Ceiling will take place on Saturday, October 10, 2020 and continue through November 29, 2020 at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens at the Downtown Sarasota campus. It is located at 1534 Mound Street in Sarasota, Florida. For the many enthusiasts interested in gaining information about how to grow and care for orchids, the curator of the exhibition, and the many horticulturists will be in attendance, and will be able to answer your many questions about orchids.

Jennifer Rominiecki, CEO and President, explained the three anniversaries that decided the title of the exhibition. It was the 45th year for the orchid show at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. It was also the Centennial for when Marie and William Selby purchased the land for the Selby Gardens. The conservatory is also celebrating the anniversary of the suffrage movement. The colors purple, pink, green, white and yellow of the suffrage movement, were used in the exhibition.

Having written myself about the difficulty of women being able to break the glass ceiling in the world of administration, the title of this exhibition and its meaning was not lost on me. The many women known in the botanical world have worked hard to succeed in their field. It is also difficult to grow orchids and to grow them successfully for most. However, for those who worked on the displays of these incredible plants at this exhibition and for those who care for them, this task has been successful and born from passion.

Upon entering the exhibition, I was transported to a place of such beauty containing variations of orchids I had never seen before. Although photos can be beautiful, the orchids are breathtaking in person. The displays in the theme of the 1920’s, contained sumptuous fabrics on the couches and 1920 gold etched boxes holding some of the orchids. The displays used the element of motion with the theme of science and discovery and the botanical world.

For many, caring for orchids can be a daunting task. Many fear being unsuccessful in keeping the beauty and health of these exquisite plants. Personally, I have had some successes and some failures in caring for these plants that have many times been given to me as a gift. Each time that I would discover the beautiful plant as I unwrapped it, I would gasp, both at its beauty and at the challenge I would then face to keep it as beautiful as when I received it.

There are so many details, dos and don’ts, in growing and maintaining the beauty of an orchid and many of these details can be learned at this event. For others, the mere beauty of these plants and seeing them on display is what they seek and enjoy. As I previewed this event, I was able to talk to the horticulturists and gather their opinions for many questions I had while attempting to maintain orchids throughout the years. Perhaps, their advice will make me more successful in the future.

After viewing these displays, one can walk to the Selby house where orchids along with roses, Marie Selby’s favorite flower, appear outside on a trellis. You can then continue on to the Museum of Botany and the Arts. In the museum, the many women known in the world of botany, past and present, are displayed with their photos and the photographs or illustrations of their botanical discoveries in the areas of their expertise.

Elizabeth (Libby) Besse who volunteered at Selby Gardens, had an orchid, named the Libby, named after her. A picture of this orchid hangs in the museum. I was very impressed that this museum also contains the largest illustration botanical book in the world dating back to the Victorian era of 1811-1897.

I encourage you to go to this exhibition and enjoy the beauty that exists there. Many can use this wonderful experience to transport oneself, even for an afternoon, to a place free from stress.


Press Release from:

“The 45th Anniversary Orchid Show: Women Breaking the Glasshouse Ceiling” presented by Better-Gro® will focus on females in Selby Gardens’ history

SARASOTA, FL – August 25, 2020 – This year marks the 45th anniversary of the official opening of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (Selby Gardens). To help celebrate that milestone, Selby Gardens’ annual orchid show will honor the Gardens’ founder, Marie Selby, and spotlight the accomplishments of many notable women who have built on her legacy and helped make Selby Gardens home to the best scientifically-documented collection of orchids in the world.

As the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of air plants (epiphytes), Selby Gardens hosts an orchid show each fall at its Downtown Sarasota campus. Taking place October 10 to November 29, 2020, The 45th Anniversary Orchid Show: Women Breaking the Glasshouse Ceiling presented by Better-Gro®, will combine a spectacular display of living orchids in the Tropical Conservatory with an impressive exhibition of orchid-related treasures from Selby Gardens’ collections in the Museum of Botany & the Arts.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the women who have made our organization possible,” says Jennifer Rominiecki, president & CEO at Selby Gardens. “Not only does it give us the opportunity to highlight our founder Marie Selby and icon Bertha Palmer, but it gives us a fitting platform to share the stories of the women scientists who have made invaluable contributions to Selby Gardens and to the scientific study and conservation of plants worldwide.”

The 45th Anniversary Orchid Show coincides with the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. The Tropical Conservatory will celebrate the Suffrage Movement and showcase orchids in the symbolic colors of the Suffragettes—purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, green for hope, and gold for light and life. The experience will be enlivened by kinetic planters that set the orchids in jubilant motion. Architectural motifs from the 1920s and period music will provide additional depth to the exhibit and transport our visitors to this pivotal era in American history.

In the north gallery of the Museum of Botany & the Arts, rare books and prints showcasing the work of some of the finest female botanical artists to have ever captured the beauty of orchids will be on view. The historical role of women as botanical illustrators and colorists will be explored, as well as the process by which botanical prints were traditionally produced.

“Botanical illustration was an entry point for females to go into science in the Victorian era,” says Jeannie Perales, vice president for museum exhibits, learning, and engagement at Selby Gardens and curator of the Orchid Show along with co-curator David Berry. “And they paved the way for female explorers to eventually go out into the field.”

The museum’s south gallery will highlight the numerous contributions of women to botanical science, including the work of many female staff and volunteers at Selby Gardens who have contributed to the understanding and appreciation of orchids and other epiphytic plants. “This show is a way to give a voice to those who haven’t traditionally had much of one in the field of science,” says Perales. “It’s one way to call attention to women in science, what their role is in it, and why they have been so underrepresented.”

The show will also include a stunning display of orchids and roses at the Selby House to mark the 100th anniversary of the Selbys’ purchase of the property on which the gardens now stand. The rose was one of Marie Selby’s favorite flowers and also a symbol of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

An additional orchid display will be on view at Selby Gardens’ companion campus at Historic Spanish Point. That display will connect to Bertha Palmer, the Chicago philanthropist and entrepreneur who established a winter estate at Spanish Point in 1910. Through her work as chairman of the Board of Lady Managers at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, Bertha Palmer made significant contributions to the cause of women’s rights.

Programs related to the exhibition will be virtual and include the following:

Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Noon to 1 p.m.
Keynote Botanical Briefing: The Orchid Show – Women Breaking the Glasshouse Ceiling

Join us for a conversation about the women behind Selby Gardens’ world-class botanical collections moderated by the Orchid Show’s curator, Jeannie Perales, vice president for museum exhibitions, learning and engagement. Jeannie will be talking with botanists Dr. Sally Chambers and Elizabeth Gandy about their paths into the field, the plants they work with, and the role they play in preserving and studying life on the planet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Noon to 1 p.m.
Historical Briefing: The Orchid Show – Bertha Palmer’s Love of Gardens with John McCarthy, Vice President for Historic Spanish Point

Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Noon to 1 p.m.
Botanical Briefing: Orchid Show: The Orchid Show – A Brief History of Botanical Art with Olivia Braida

The 45th Anniversary Orchid Show: Women Breaking the Glasshouse Ceiling is presented by Better-Gro®. Major sponsors include The State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture; Williams Parker Harrison Dietz & Getzen; and is paid for in part by Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax Revenue. Supporting sponsors include Travis and Kathy Brown, Jean Weidner Goldstein, Teri A Hansen, Marcy and Michael Klein, Katherine and Frank Martucci, Cornelia and J. Richard Matson, Drs. Joel Morganroth and Gail Morrison Morganroth, and Pauline Wamsler.

About Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens provides 45 acres of bayfront sanctuaries connecting people with air plants of the world, native nature, and our regional history. Established by forward thinking women of their time, Selby Gardens is composed of the 15-acre Downtown Sarasota campus and the 30-acre Historic Spanish Point campus in the Osprey area of Sarasota County, Florida. The Downtown Campus on Sarasota Bay is the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of epiphytic orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads and ferns, and other tropical plants. There is a significant focus on botany, horticulture, education, historical preservation, and the environment. The Historic Spanish Point (HSP) Campus is located less than 10 miles south along Little Sarasota Bay. The HSP Campus, one of the largest preserves showcasing native Florida plants that is interpreted for and open to the public, celebrates an archaeological record that encompasses approximately 5,000 years of Florida history. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a Smithsonian Affiliate and is also accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. For more information visit


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