After spending several days at Seattle’s Northwest Flower & Garden Show, with all the glorious display gardens and spring blooms around every corner, I was feeling pretty antsy for spring to finally arrive.
It’s been a whopper of a winter, and while I’m not complaining (after all, last night’s news said California is officially out of our seven-year drought!) I must say, I’m feeling pretty starved for garden tours right now. Name a gardener that isn’t feeling this way, right?
As luck would have it, I happened to have a free afternoon, so my mother and I decided to visit Chihuly’s Garden and Glass. While I certainly appreciate his impressive glass creations, I’ll be honest – it was the word ‘Garden’ that hooked me.
In my opinion, there’s something pretty magical about a winter garden done right.
It’s pretty easy to have a beautiful spring or summer garden, but winter is a whole different story. To have a garden that shines in February is no easy feat. Since I’ve previously visited one of the best winter garden’s I’ve ever seen at the nearby Washington Park Arboretum, I thought I’d give this one a try.
When you first arrive, you’re led through different rooms within the museum, to ooh and aah over the unbelievable glass art installations. I can’t even put into words how amazing and talented Dale Chihuly is. But I wanted to get to the garden!
Following the signs, we exited the museum through this jaw-dropping 40-foot tall glasshouse he created in homage to his lifelong love of conservatories.
Surrounding the glass walls are tantalizing views of the garden you’re about to visit.
What a fabulous way to transition from the museum to the garden!
While many of the plants were either deciduous or flat out nowhere to be seen (busy sleeping underground, hidden from sight) Chihuly’s glass art brings this garden to LIFE.
This is a smaller garden, with a central path that meanders through beds anchored by several oversized and impressive art sculptures.
Winter is often a time of highlighting subtle nuances that are often overlooked in spring and summer’s riot of color, texture, and scent.
But in this garden, there’s no such thing as subtle. Yet, at the same time, there is!
Without the distraction of the plants, the emphasis is, of course, on the glass art.
However slow down a bit, and you’ll begin to notice the careful thought as to where the art is placed.
Look long enough, and various echoes coming from color, texture, and form will begin to emerge.
For example, look at the bed below – see how the orange glass is perfectly placed to highlight the orange tones of the deciduous Paperbark Maples?
Look again, and you’ll notice the contrast as well, with the smooth glass intermingling with the peeling textures of the bark.
The moody black color of the mondo grass, below, is echoed with the black sculptures nestled nearby.
Take a look at the repetition and contrast happening in this bed.
The very vertical, and very red, glass spires beautifully echo the upright shape of the yellow branches of the dogwood.
Yet, different from the above color echoes, the red glass helps to highlight the contrasting yellow color of the branches.
I love this grouping the best of all.
The color positively glows in the shady corners of this bed, helping to bring attention to the sculptural quality of the tree stump.
And the cool, smoothness of the glass contrasts beautifully with the prickly texture of the mahonia that surrounds it.
I can only imagine what this looks like in the spring and summer, with hints of purple flowers planted throughout.
Repetition and contrast, repetition and contrast – the key to a breathtaking garden bed.
Of course, sometimes you want the art to stand out on its own as a focal point with no distractions of all.
Perfectly balanced on a bed of black mondo grass, with the red branches of the Japanese maple beyond, there’s no mistaking this glowing yellow orb, is there? Or the towering red and yellow ‘trees’?
I usually don’t write about restaurants, but I feel it’s important to mention that when you’re finished with the tour and have worked up a bit of an appetite, you simply must stop by the Collections Cafe.
Located within the museum, you’ll be treated to another one of Dale Chihuly’s passions – collecting and displaying his vast array of treasures (yes, those are accordions hanging from the ceiling).
Not only is the food delicious (I highly recommend the garlic parmesan rosemary fries!) but the tables themselves are another visual treat.
Make sure you get there early before the tables are filled up so you can wander around looking at all the collections!
Below are just a few examples to whet your appetite.
Visiting this garden on a cold, winter day might seem to some, a less than exciting adventure. But when it’s done right, it can be a most exciting and memorable event!