Saturday, January 3, 2009

DBG: The Ultimate Garden Art!

Are you tired of winter yet? If so, how about a little stroll through a sunshine-filled garden with me. No need to put on a sweater--the temperature will soon soar into the 70's. Just grab a cup of coffee or tea--it will take a little while to see all the sights, but I promise not to talk too much.

As most of you know, I visited my daughter in Phoenix in early December, and while there I took a morning to visit the Desert Botanical Gardens. I had visited the Gardens on my first visit to Phoenix back in January; in fact, one of my very first blog posts featured this fascinating place. I was eager to see the Gardens again, but what I didn't know is that I was in for a very special treat.

An unsuspecting visitor might wonder what those unusual chartreuse flowers were towering above the succulents at the entrance to the Gardens. I should have gotten the name for these for Mr. McGregor's Daughter who is partial to chartreuse, I know, but I was too intent on photographing them to notice the identifying sign. Besides, there is no botanical name for these.

This lovely "plant" is actually a sculpture of glass, part of an ongoing exhibit at DBG by the famous glass artist Dale Chihuly. Fortunately, I had checked out the Garden's website for its hours before going, so I knew that the exhibit was there. If you happen to be in the Phoenix area and decide to see the exhibit, be sure to check out the website first. Because they expect many visitors, reservations are recommended. I was lucky that on this Monday morning they were not that busy and I was able to get in without a reservation.

I came to admire the cacti, like the saguaros, but it was impossible not be entranced by the art strategically placed around and among them. This piece is called "Tiger Lilies."

I took so many photos on this morning, but many of them were of the identifying signs so I wouldn't forget the names of some of the more unusual plants I saw. Unfortunately, in my eagerness to get the best angle for a photo, I often forgot to take photos of the signs accompanying the artwork. Hmmm, I'm guessing this is some kind of tree--what do you think?

Another unidentified piece placed among the succulents and shrubs with mesquite and Palo Verde trees in the background. Don't they look like flower stems waving in the breeze?

This was one of my favorites--blue is my favorite color, after all. Besides the tall spikes rising among the agave, you might also notice some large blue balls as well.

This was one of the most unusual pieces, set on a higher slope of the Gardens so that it appeared even taller than it already was. If you enlarge this, you might be able to see that is made up of numerous twists of glass tubing. I wish I could have gotten a better picture--a visitor on a cell phone(!) was standing right next to it, blocking my view. At least I did get the name of this piece--"Saffron Tower." Think of all the dishes Frances could flavor with this much saffron!

Another piece whose name was hard to miss was this one--"The Moon." Just the sheer size of some of Chihuly's work was amazing, but look even closer to be further amazed.

Is there such a thing as plate tectonics on the moon?? I have no idea how this piece was constructed.

Although I had heard of Chihuly before, I must admit I knew very little about his work. And I'm not much of an art connoisseur, but I am now a big fan. His work ranges from the whimsical, such as this "Crimson and Yellow Chandelier" . . .

. . . to the magnificent, including this piece, "Chiostro di Sant' Apollonia Chandelier." Can you imagine this hanging from the ceiling in your foyer?!

I would love to have these "Blue Fiddleheads" growing in my garden.

I mentioned this exhibit briefly in a post when I first returned from Arizona, and several people commented that they had seen the exhibit in Missouri or other Botanical Gardens. Until that time, I wasn't aware that Chihuly's exhibit had traveled to other places. Every work seemed to fit in so well that it appeared as though he had created each piece specifically for each area of the DBG. These "Blue and Green Ferns," for example, seem like the perfect complement to this area of native shrubs with Papago Peak in the background.

Of course, there were a few surprises. Who would have expected some sea life in the middle of the Sonoran Desert? This photo doesn't do them justice, but the "White Belugas" seemed perfectly at home here. I like an artist who has a sense of humor.

The scope of this exhibit, "The Nature of Glass," was impressive. There were so many works of art that you never knew what to expect as you rounded each part of the trail. These pink spires (name now forgotten) seemed to grow naturally among the small cacti here.

As did the tall purple stalks in front of the organ pipe cactus.

Red spikes in another area gave a jolt of color to the otherwise green landscape.

If the sun hadn't been shimmering off these "Mirrored Hornets" and if you were a little myopic, you might have thought at first glance that this was a planting of agaves.

Although most displays contained one color scheme, in a few areas several works were combined for a dramatic display. This piece just blows my mind! At first glance while going through my photos, I thought this was purple glass placed in the center of a succulent. But a closer look revealed that the green bracts are also glass. You really need to enlarge this photo to see the magnificent detail. Notice the "Mirrored Hornets" around it with the "Blue Fiddleheads" in the background.

The Chihuly exhibit will be on display at the Desert Botanical Gardens through May of this year. If you are in the Phoenix area, I would definitely make this part of your itinerary. If you can't make it to Phoenix, check out Chihuly's website; although "The Nature of Glass" is not currently scheduled to appear elsewhere, it may be after May. Also, check out Cosmo's latest post; she is currently in Phoenix and also visited the DBG. She has a couple fantastic photos of some of the art at sunset, and she plans to have a more complete posting later.

I have become fascinated by the plant life of the desert, but you will notice I don't have many plants shown here--I have so many photos that I decided to do a second post just on the plant life, probably next week. I came to the Botanical Gardens to learn more about these Southwest natives, but I found so much more. This was the ultimate combination of nature and art.


  1. Oh, Rose, you must have found it hard to even breathe in the midst of all of that beautiful art work nestled in the desert garden. A lot of it reminded me of life in a tropical sea. Just spectacular. I did a post early in 2008 on the work of Niki de Saint Phalle in the St. Louis MOBOT garden.

    It was very whimsical too but probably better suited for family visits to the garden. I'm not sure that I would want to take children to see Chihuly's work. Not because it's objectionable but so delicate! I feel like a bull in a china shop myself sometimes, so with kids along I would be a nervous wreck.

  2. Love it, love it. I once watched a program on PBS about him. I was glued to the screen (which doesn't happen often). I was also glued to your post!! Thank you!!

  3. Rose, I can see whay you are so taken with the artist andthis display. I have never seen anything to compare. As I told you, I hd never heard of him before, but will now be on the look out for more of his work.

    Great photos! And a wonderful day brightener. Thanks.

  4. WOW!! That is a very artistic and beautiful place. I wish I could visit in person :)

    Great photos.

  5. The plants were wonderful, but the glass was amazing... I wish I were able to visit!!!
    By the way the book on Attracting birds and butterflys came from Cracker Barrel of all places. You may want to check out all their new spring garden stuff. I just got a hummingbird feeder today.
    Thanks for the fantastic Blog today!!

  6. Rose, I think this was all original for this exhibit, because I don't remember any of these pieces at St. Louis. It is so unusual and striking when you see it in amongst the plants, isn't it?

  7. I think Chihuly was at Kew (in UK) a year or so ago and I missed it. A big regret,especially after seeing your photos

  8. I was eagerly awaiting this post after noting you and Cosmo had seen the same exhibit. It is amazing just how small this world is and how everyone's paths cross in some small ways. I must say I loved the tall chartreuse cacti the best, and the Tiger Lilies display too. Not at all sure about the twisted glass-it kind of looks like Medusa's hair a bit. But all definitely colorful and pretty. And gee, I wonder how the lucky guys get the displays put up without breaking any glass? Thanks for sharing it all. I enlarged several pictures on your advice and agree it is quite a show-plate tectonics on the moon....hmmmm.

  9. My goodness - what a lot of beautiful photos! And so unusual! I think I like the blue ones too (all of them). The colour is so vivid!
    Thanks for taking us on your walk in the Art Garden. It was fun!

  10. W2W, It was absolutely beautiful! I didn't go on the tour this time just to make sure I had time enough to take everything in. All the displays were well back from the paths so that there wasn't any danger of breaking anything:) Believe me, I would have been the one to knock something over other wise. I will check out your earlier post; sounds very interesting!

    Flydragon, Glad you enjoyed it! I would love to see that PBS program and see how he creates all these magnificent works.

    Beckie, You know I don't know much about art, but this was something anyone could appreciate! I wish you could have been there with me--I'm trying to persuade Hubby to go in early March. If he doesn't go, maybe you'd like to tag along:)

    Suburbia, My photos don't do it justice. It was truly breathtaking.

    Lynn, I was going to do just one post on the Gardens, but I had so many pictures, I thought people would enjoy one just devoted to the glass exhibit. Now you've given me an excuse to have lunch at the Cracker Barrel:)

    Joyce, I noticed the dates on some of the markers, and some of these pieces were done as far back as 1995. Maybe he chooses the most appropriate pieces for each exhibit. These all just seemed to fit in so naturally among the native Arizona plants.

    Rhiannon, I'm so sorry you missed it! But I just happened to be lucky in that I had planned to go the Gardens in Phoenix anyway. Thanks for visiting!

    Tina, I was hoping Cosmo would get to go to the Gardens while in Phoenix. Weren't her photos with the sunset great? I think you are right about the look of Medusa in the one photo; I was just so pleased with the photo and was taken away by all the detail. All the blues were my favorite. I don't think I would want the job of setting this up:)

  11. Those are some breathtaking works of art mingling amongst the desert plants. I love the vibrant colors & interesting organic shapes. What a great treat for you, thanks for sharing your visit. :)

  12. Hi Rose,

    That is quite possibly the best Chihuly exhibit I've seen. He did the desert right didn't he? It is one incredible sculptural piece after another...but I always like his chandelier's. I would love to get to Phoenix to see it in person, even though your tour was terrific!
    The desert light would just make the glass pieces shimmer.


  13. I remember your first post mentioning that you were going to show us your photos of this exhibit. I couldn't hardly wait but it was worth a wait. You did a great job getting these photos Rose.

    I too didn't really like glass all that much or think of it as art until I saw his exhibit in Chicago. I too am now a fan of Chihuly. When you see some glass that artists make similar to chihuly's you will be able to see a difference. Chihuly's art is amazing.

  14. Of course I remember your trip to your daughter's. How can I forget that beautiful photo of the Hong Kong Orchid Tree flower!
    The garden props look better than the plants themselves. I like the Lily a lot! Thanks for the trip

  15. Ooooh! That is lovely, especially the curly tree and the blue glass thing.
    Yes, I am definitely fed up with the winter and the cold & the dreariness of this time of the year. Thanks for the diversion!

  16. Thank you Rose tea would be most welcome and the warmth on the back of my neck, a welcome change at this time.

    Well I am absolutely blown away. I am someone who does not like to see too much artwork in a garden but this is so beautiful. It has been done so sympathetically. Planted alongside or amongst the cacti has given those plants more life and added much needed colour. I hold my hands up you may have converted me.......

  17. Rose: this post is very exciting for me to view because I will be heding for Scottsdale in a month and the Desert Botanical Gardens is always a place that I enjoying visiting! Thank you for sharing! smiles to you NG

  18. Wendy, Everything seems different in the Southwest. I don't grow cactus or any succulents here, but they're interesting to see. The art was something I didn't expect--just beautiful.

    PG, I like your description of "organic shapes." That's what really appealed to me about Chihuly's art.

    Gail, I was pretty impressed myself, but I've never seen another exhibit by Chihuly. I wonder how long it took him to create all the pieces here.

    Lisa, As I said, I'm not very knowledgable about art, especially modern art. But it didn't take much to be captivated by Chihuly's work. This is one post where enlarging the photos really does make a difference!

    Chandramouli, Oh, yes, the orchid tree! I really didn't do the plants justice here, but many times they were upstaged by the glass.

    Maggie May, It has been rather gray and dreary here, too. The perfect time to escape by dreaming of other sunny places:)

    Cheryl, I'm not into that much art either, but you've said it so well. He integrated the art into the plant life so beautifully. I spent a very happy morning at the Gardens. Tea is ready:)

    Nature Girl, I know you are heading to Scottsdale soon. I was looking forward to visiting the DBG before I went; the artwork was a surprise bonus. You definitely don't want to miss it. Enjoy the sunshine!!

  19. Rose those photos were gorgeous! They were all so nice it would be hard to pick a favorite. I did like the look of those Mirrored Hornets. But then I liked them all.

    I am one who has seen the Chilhuly exhibit at an indoor gardens in Ohio a few years back.

    Thanks for sharing, it was wonderful.

  20. Ooh! Aaah! Wow! Whoah! Cool! Aside from that, I'm speechless. (Well, not really.) Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this wonderful tour. The DBG is on my wishlist of gardens to see (see my latest post as proof! ;-) and I LOVE Chihuly. I have seen a smaller-scale exhibit of his at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, plus an entire (non-garden) exhibit at the Kalamazoo art museum, which really, really wowed me. But neither was anywhere on the scale of this one, and there's something about the desert landscape that really compliments the glass. (I also forget to take photos of signs in my excitement.) I also love the glass fiddle head ferns and chartreuse plants--they look like they were made for DBG in particular. The exhibit runs from the end of May, so if I'm going to visit Phoenix, at HAS to be before then. Thanks again Rose for this inspiring post!
    ~ Monica

  21. Rose--Your photos are stunning--I don't know how I'm ever going to get through mine! We were there late afternoon, and it was actually quite cold, and I didn't have gloves, so the camera was shaking quite a bit! And I didn't get to see as many of the plants as I wanted to--but I'm definitely going back next May. Anyway, thanks for the link, and what a beautiful post.

  22. What an amazing talent. It is just breath taking.

  23. Susie, Sorry, I couldn't remember who saw what where other than the Missouri Botanical Gardens. At least the exhibit would be protected indoors; I wonder what happens in case of a storm??

    Garden Faerie, You must have seen the same exhibit as Susie:) I will check out your list--I know I have a long "bucket list" myself. There are many soooo many gardens I haven't visited. Definitely put Phoenix on your travel list if you can!

  24. Cosmo, It has taken me several weeks to go through all my pictures, so don't feel bad. I loved your sunset photos and can't wait to see the rest of yours. Although the temperatures certainly drop after the sun goes down, it must have been cold if you needed gloves!

    Marnie, As I said, I'm no art critic, but Chihuly's work is truly impressive.

  25. This is incredible. It's hard to imagine a better setting for these shapely glass sculptures than amid such architectural plants. I loved your virtual tour. Thanks!

  26. Wow....this is soooo awesome. I will definitely be stopping there if I ever make it back to Arizona!

  27. Oh my goodness, what a show! Thanks so much for giving us this fabulous glimpse at what must have been like a dream in real life! And thanks for the link love, too, BTW! I did see Cosmo's post too. You were so lucky to have been able to view this, and so smart to get it captured in pixels for later viewing. Thanks, thanks thanks for showing us.

  28. Me again (do you have frequent poster miles?!). I found four photos of the Chihuly exhibit in Columbus (which does sound like what Susie also saw) on my blog here.
    ~ Monica

  29. Pam, Thanks for visiting. Yes, the artwork seemed as if it belonged here.

    Neva, The Botanical Gardens is definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.

    Frances, Chihuly has definitely won a new fan in me!

    Monica, Thanks for the info! I'll see about the frequent poster miles:)

  30. Chihuly's art is just amazing to me and I've never seen it in person. I appreciate these photos so much.

    We were watching PBS last night, and I do believe there is a Chihuly special coming up on TV soon.


  31. Cameron, Thanks for the info on the PBS program. I will be sure to check out the TV listings!

  32. Dear Rose,
    Oh my goodness! His work is fantastic! I was lucky to see some of his work in the St. Louis Botanical Gardens last summer.
    Different pieces than what you saw.
    Your photos are excellent too.
    I just might have to get to Arizona this would chase away the winter blues..
    So beautiful.

  33. Sherry, The Arizona sunshine can cheer anyone up! I did notice the butterfly exhibit at the garden is closed until March, though.

  34. Holy cow, that was amazing! You've got 2 of my favorites, the Sonoran Desert & Dale Chihuly art, combined. You should blow up & frame some of those photos, they are just fantastic. BTW, I also like purple & cerulean too. :-)

  35. MMD, That's not a bad idea to enlarge and print these for my wall. For some reason, your fondness for chartreuse stuck in my mind:)

  36. Ooooh, thank you so much for taking us on this tour! I'm a huge fan of Chihuly! My first encounter with his works was at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, OH, where there is a permanent display. You can see some of it in one of blog posts from 2007. Did you know he has a rose named for him?

    I think this display is the most dazzling of his that I've ever seen. You've captured it magnificently!


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