A feast of blooms of almost every hue are on show at the National Orchid Garden.  Most orchids anchor themselves on trees in the wild, so it’s initially odd to see them  thriving here at ground level in specially adapted beds. Th ere’s an entire section of  orchids named after dignitaries and celebrities who have visited; Dendrobium Margaret  Thatcher turns out to be a severe pink with two of its petals looking like twisted  ribbons, while Vandaenopsis Nelson Mandela is a reassuring warm yellowy-brown.  Looking slightly out of place is a colonial-era house, Burkill Hall, with more than a hint  of mock Tudor about it; the gardens’ director once lived here.  Be sure to visit the superb cool house, mimicking conditions at the tops of equatorial  mountains; through its mists you’ll spot some stunning slipper orchids, their petals  forming a pouch below, as well as insectivorous pitcher plants. Finally, the gift shop  stocks an incredible range of orchid paraphernalia, including blossoms encased in glass  paperweights or plated with 24-carat gold (or even silvery rhodium for extra snob value).

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