Scene Last Night: Royce, Jeffrey Rosen, Bommer, Wendy Whelan

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The dinner table was exotically set last night for fund manager Charles Royce and other supporters of the New York Botanical Garden.

Some guests enjoyed the celery root soup on tablecloths covered in black sequins. Others dined under canopies of white orchids. Martha Stewart’s chair was decorated in a leopard print.

Each year floral and interior designers are tapped to create fantasy settings for the Bronx-based garden’s Orchid Dinner. The magazine Veranda recruits the crew, making orchids a mandatory ingredient and leaving the rest to the designers’ imagination.

At the Mandarin Oriental last night, Juan Villanueva put out pairs of scissors purchased at Pearl River. He intended for guests to use them to cut flowers from the centerpiece and to maintain flowers at home. “Re-cutting fresh flowers is the easiest way to prolong their life,” said Villanueva, owner of Villanueva Designs.

One table featured ceramic monkeys and terracotta pots, another paint brushes and paint splatters. One of the most beautiful tables was the most simple, by Petal Design Studio: stripes of pink and burgundy ribbons placed flat on the table, emanating from a low centerpiece of similar hues.

Investment manager Richard Chilton, Lazard Ltd.’s Jeffrey Rosen, and George Matelich, who works in private equity, were among those served roasted chicken breast stuffed with truffle-mushroom duxelles. A band kept guests dancing.

Orchid Show

The event supports the garden’s orchid conservation program, which protects wild orchids under threat of extinction. One way the garden does this is by taking in plants seized during improperly documented shipping.

The garden’s horticultural staff is at work on its own orchid spectacle. The annual Orchid Show opening on Feb. 28 will present orchid chandeliers that use plants instead of crystal to draw your eye.

“We just installed the largest chandelier today,” said Karen Daubmann, the garden’s director of exhibitions and seasonal displays. “It’s star-shaped and three tiers, about 16 feet wide.”

If that doesn’t sound grand, how about slabs of acrylic weighing three thousand pounds each, filled with dancing figures composed of plants, petals and paper?

Such slabs, by artist Dustin Yellin, are installed on the promenade of the David H. Koch Theater and provided dramatic decor yesterday at the New York City Ballet’s annual luncheon.

Wendy Whelan

The event began in the theater, where Donya Bommer, one of the chairmen of the luncheon, interviewed dancer Wendy Whelan, who retired in October after 30 years with the New York City Ballet.

Bommer got Whelan talking about her craft, her project “Restless Creature,” in which she has paired with non-ballet choreographers to make and perform new work, and her recovery from a hip reconstruction, which entailed daily physical therapy for several months.

The “aha” moment of the conversation came when Bommer recited a quotation, which Whelan had posted on her Instagram account, about a cellist who was still practicing at the age of 90.

“I just love progress,” Whelan said in response. “Whatever it is. It doesn’t have to be making it to the top of the mountain.”

At the luncheon, Bommer reviewed some of the inspiration she takes from Whelan, who at 47 has entered “retirement” with a crop of new roles, including serving as an artistic associate at New York City Center.

“She has the most incredible work ethic,” Bommer said. “She takes class every day. And she’s not afraid to try new things. I think about that all the time.”

Bommer paused to greet friend Paige Hardy before adding one last takeaway: Whelan is proof “that we can get better with age,” Bommer said.

(An earlier version of this story corrected the spelling of Villanueva in the fourth paragraph.)

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