45th Annual Orchid Show Celebrates Women’s Suffrage at Sarasota Selby Gardens

The Purpose Behind the Orchid Spectacle

This show is named “The 45th Annual Orchid Show: Women Breaking the Glasshouse Ceiling” and for good reason. If you walked into the exhibit without the notion that it’s meant to represent women’s progress over the last 100 years, you’d be missing a crucial element. Yes, the displays are beautiful and jovial. However, Selby Gardens has meant this display to celebrate women’s suffrage and right to vote. After all, this is the 100th year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. What could be more breathtaking? History represented through beautiful, blooming orchids. 

Selby Gardens Orchid Exhibit Information

  • Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
  • Cost: $20 and $10 for children age 4-17; $10 for adults if you attend with a person who has a membership
  • Dates: Oct. 10-Nov. 29
  • Address: 1534 Mound St, Sarasota, FL
  • Website/Learn more: selby.org
  • Sidenote: Masks are required in the exhibit, however, they are only required when unable to stay 6 feet apart on the garden grounds

Five Reasons Why Should You Attend the Orchid Show

1. It’s a Celebration of Women

Whether you’re a woman or you have a woman of significance in your life, it’s important to honor women’s progress and continued quest to break through the “glasshouse” ceiling. The colors throughout the exhibit are also representations of the Women’s Suffrage Movement – purple for dignity and loyalty, green for hope, white for purity, and gold to symbolize light and life. 

women's suffrage is represented at selby gardens sarasota

2. The Exhibit is Downright Beautiful

When you hear about an orchid show, maybe you imagine a display of pretty flowers in a greenhouse. I definitely didn’t imagine anything too “exciting” before I went to the orchid show in Downtown Sarasota. BUT, the dynamic exhibit is set up with impeccable and semi-theatrical elements. There are moving floral arrangements, a velvet chaise lounge chairs, and a black and white checkered floor. See it for yourself in the Tropical Conservatory!

beautiful orchid display at selby gardens sarasota

3. There is History Behind the Orchid Display & it’s Founder

The 45th Anniversary show puts women in the spotlight but it also highlights the garden’s founder: Marie Selby. This year marks 100 years since Ms. Selby purchased the lands where the gardens first opened in 1975.

4. You Can Experience the Grounds of the Selby Gardens

Maybe flowers are not your thing, but there are SO many sights to see at the Selby Gardens in Sarasota. Previously, I hadn’t been to the orchid exhibit or the Selby Garden grounds so you could say there was a ton to explore. My group walked for two hours through the different areas of the plants from the Bonsai Exhibit at the start, to the gorgeous koi pond and waterfall, as well as the banyan grove and succulent gardens of the desert. If you’re never seen a banyan tree, GET THERE! The Floridian staples are there as well like the mangrove area and the palms; so many unique species to take in.

banyan ground growing in selby gardens sarasota

5. There are Women in Science Being Featured at the Gardens

The women featured apparently travelled to South America and rappelled into sinkholes in order to gather specimens. Talk about powerful women! Women on display include:

  • Dr. Sally Chambers – Marie Selby Gardens Research Botanist
  • Elizabeth Gandy – Curatorial Assistant in the Botany Department at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
  • Libby Besse – A dedicated volunteer who discovered a novel orchid species in 1981 (Phragmipedium besseae)
  • Piedad Dodson – The wife of the first director of Selby Gardens 
  • Jane Luer -The wife of Selby Gardens co-founder 

Orchid Show Gallery Exhibits

pink orchid at selby gardens in downtown sarasota

North Gallery Orchid Exhibit

This gallery holds rare books and works of female botanists who helped pave the way for women in the sciences. I didn’t have the joy of visiting these additional exhibits, however, I’ll be going back soon to experience it again with a fresh perspective. You can also find botanical illustrations and explore the role of these women botanists in history.

South Gallery Portion of the Orchid Show

This gallery is shining a spotlight on significant contributions of women scientists as well as women staff and volunteers.

Historic Spanish Point Exhibit

Orchids are also being displayed at Historic Spanish Point campus due to the connection of Bertha Palmer to the women’s rights movement and significance to the Sarasota community. Palmer was a well-known socialite and philanthropist who lived in an estate on Spanish Point in 1910.

orange orchid on display at selby gardens sarasota

Virtual Events Associated with the Selby Garden Orchid Show

  1. Keynote Botanical Briefing: The Orchid Show – Women Breaking the Glasshouse Ceiling (Wednesday, October 21, 2020 – Noon to 1 p.m)
  2. Historical Briefing: The Orchid Show – Bertha Palmer’s Love of Gardens with John McCarthy, Vice President for Historic Spanish Point (Wednesday, November 18, 2020 – Noon to 1 p.m.)
  3. Botanical Briefing: Orchid Show:  The Orchid Show – A Brief History of Botanical Art with Olivia Braida (Wednesday, December 9, 2020 – Noon to 1 p.m.)

CONCLUSION: To Visit or Not to Visit the Orchids? That is the Question.

Honestly, if you’re not into floral exhibits…that’s okay! It’s not for everyone. I think a primary reason for attending is to celebrate an important woman in your life as well as the female founder of these stunning Sarasota gardens in the heart of our city. Marie Selby would be proud of the nod to women’s suffrage and the way this fabulous exhibit was presented. Not to mention, if you have an afternoon free and are looking for something to do in Sarasota, this is a wonderful outing for all. Explore the garden grounds, climb an old weeping fig tree, eat lunch under the stain-glass gazebo, or sit by the water overlooking the Ringling bridge. Moments that can appreciate and fall deeper in love with the city you live in are, hands down, worth it.