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Bromeliads are the star of the show that runs through Sept. 26 at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
Bromeliads are the star of the show that runs through Sept. 26 at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
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Bromeliads are blooming at San Diego Botanic Garden

The bromeliads are a-bloomin’ at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas.

Fans of this exotic, tropical plant, as well as the as-yet-uneducated, will marvel at not only the plants but at the artful display that has been created in the 8,000-square-foot, glass-enclosed Dickinson Family Education Conservatory.

“The flowers perfume at night,” says enthusiastic Creative Director Rene van Rems during a short break from orchestrating the finishing touches of the exhibit. “You come in here in the morning after (the conservatory) has been closed up for the night and the smell is amazing.”

Some bromeliads are 40 years old and enormous. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
Some bromeliads are 40 years old and enormous. Photo by E’Louise Ondash

The bromeliad family includes more than 3,000 species and additional thousands of hybrids. The most commonly known bromeliads are the pineapple and the lowly air plant, which van Rems and his team of about 35 volunteers have raised to new heights, both figuratively and literally.

Both the specimens that hang from dizzying heights and the “terrestrial” (floor) specimens, some as large as a La-Z-Boy and up to 40 years old, contribute to the feeling of total emersion when visitors enter the conservatory.

“We’ve more than doubled the number of plants in here,” van Rems explains, and we’ve brought in wood from the property to use in the displays.”

Rene van Rems, creative director at the San Diego Botanic Garden, directed the design of the current World of Bromeliads exhibit. “This is all about the beauty of the plant,” he said. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
Rene van Rems, creative director at the San Diego Botanic Garden, directed the design of the current World of Bromeliads exhibit. “This is all about the beauty of the plant,” he said. Photo by E’Louise Ondash

Van Rem is referring to the clever re-purposing of the many large limbs from a single cork tree that had to be removed from another part of the garden because of water damage.

The bromeliad specimens in the exhibit come from 20 private collections and from local growers Olive Hill Greenhouses, Sunlet Nursery and Bird Rock Tropicals.

“It really does take a village,” van Rems says.

World of Bromeliads runs August 14 through September 26, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. On weekends, local growers will have plants for sale.

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