The Orchid Dinner

  Photo: Zach Hilty/  Photo: Zach Hilty/

Each year,  The New York Botanical Garden hosts its festive and fabulous Orchid Dinner.  This year, the big event was held at the storied Plaza Hotel. All proceeds from the Dinner (and the sale of rare orchids during the cocktail hour) support the Botanical Garden’s orchid research collection and conservation efforts.

  Orchids auctioned at the event. Photo: Zach Hilty/  Orchids auctioned at the event. Photo: Zach Hilty/

I was honored to be invited to create a centerpiece and tablescape for the big event.  I was in the company of other interior designers from around the country, as well as floral designers, fashion designers and architects.  The only requirement was that the centerpieces must feature orchids as the principal element.  Other than that, we were left to our own inspiration and creativity.

  A sketch of my design plan   by Jane Gianarelli  A sketch of my design plan   by Jane Gianarelli

I got to work looking for a backdrop my table and I needed to look no further than the Osborne & Little showroom.  The Designer’s Guild Fabric, “Orchidea” was the perfect point of departure.

To me, the fabric looked like a painting, with the orchids moving across the canvas.  A big thank you to Osborne & Little for donating this stunning fabric to my project.  The rest of “my story”  seemed to come easily after that.

To finish off the tablecloth, expertly fabricated by Sidotti Decor in Long Island City (without whom I wouldn’t be in business), I used two trims by Samuel & Sons – a grosgrain trim in a soft lavender, and a velvet cord in a deep aubergine.  Just the right touch!

Now to the tabletop:

After searching for awhile for some plate chargers, I found the perfect one–a glass charger by Villeroy and Boch in a deep aubergine.  Just the right amount of drama against the orchid fabric.  I am so grateful for the support of Villeroy and Boch for donating these beauties!  I needed something relatively neutral with the pattern of the tablecloth and the drama of the chargers, so decided to use a set of plates from my own inventory–a lovely set of limoge porcelain plates in the shape of a flower (how perfect is that?)

And for the seat cushions, I used one of my favorite silks from Manuel Canovas, “Salsa” in lilac, piped in the same deep aubergine velvet that we used at the base of the tablecloth.

A sucker for monograms, I turned to Leontine Linens for some napkin inspiration.  To balance the cool pinks and lavenders of the tablecloth, I opted for a beautiful green, embroidered with a thread called raspberry ice.

For glassware, there is nothing like the beauty and quality of William Yeoward Crystal.  One trip to the showroom and I found some stunning goblets calling my name:  The Vita Goblet in amethyst for wine and the Eliza Goblet for water.  The amethyst crystal catches the light in such a beautiful way, at the whimsical pattern of the Eliza Goblet plays off the more serious, traditional style of the Vita.

Now, for the most important part…the orchids!  I have collaborated with Anthony Ortiz on many successful projects, and we began brainstorming.  I knew I wanted height, color and a bit of drama.  We loved the look of bleached manzanita branches and decided to create a “tree” of Vanda orchids from these wonderful branches.  This mimicked the movement of our tablecloth and added height, color and drama!  To balance the height, we used some mimi phalaenopsis orchid plants at the base of the centerpiece.  The shine of  black glass vases juxtaposed the matte finish of the branches and also was the perfect neutral against the white and pinks of the tablecloth.

Invitations were sent and the big day was fast approaching!

February 7 arrived and it was off to the races!  We headed to the flower district and then to the Plaza Ballroom to get to work!

It takes a village….

In a matter of hours, the Ballroom was transformed into a fanciful garden.  Each table was beautiful and it was fascinating to see the different creations and interpretations of each designer.

I was honored to be a part of such a wonderful evening. It was a magical night supporting a great cause, with so many talented designers showcasing their creativity and imagination. I feel privileged to be among them.