Mixing Things Up In Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass

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Over the past few years, an unusual kind of garden has taken root at the base of Seattleā€™s Space Needle. Composed of an eye-opening mix of plants and glass, it was created by artist and Washington native, Dale Chihuly. Appropriately titled Chihuly Garden and Glass, it’s a cheerful space, filled with translucence and shimmer. And it’s an awe-inspiring expression of what color and light can do for a garden.


Glass ‘ferns’ at Chihuly Garden and Glass


Chihuly Garden and Glass is the largest Chihuly exhibit in the world. Built on the grounds of a former amusement park, the 1.5-acre space includes eight indoor galleries, a central Glasshouse and a series of dynamic, glass-embellished gardens. It is also home to the artist’s largest suspended sculpture, an expansive 100-foot long floral ‘chandelier’ composed of red, orange, yellow and amber glass.


Chihuly’s giant floral chandelier


A few of Chihuly’s glass bowls


Giant glass flowers face Seattle’s Space Needle


Touring Chihuly Garden and Glass is a visual treat filled with lots of surprises. Large glass sculptures anchor each of the four main areas, while hundreds of glass ‘plants’ other ethereal forms stir the imagination amidst a lush backdrop of ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers. Follow below as I tour the garden. 


Located directly behind the Glass House, this garden is designed around a large, mounded space crowned by a brilliant glass ‘sun’. Gold, with fiery red rays, the sculpture sits atop a dusky-brown bed of New Zealand flax. A hedge of deep green Japanese pittosporum encircles the garden.


Glass ‘sun’ in Chihuly Garden and Glass


Running along the back side of the property, this garden is a study in light pinks and brilliant blues. Cerulean glass reeds sprout from amidst a sea of purple verbena, gentian sage and ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff’ hydrangeas. Dwarf bear breeches and icy white carpet roses complement the mainly cool palette.


Cerulean glass reeds are the main motif in Garden #2 


This installation continues the blue theme with cobalt glass reeds and the introduction of serpentine sculptures along with blue and green glass spheres. Scattered among drifts of purple primula, white ranunculus, sea holly and  dwarf bear’s breeches, the sculptures add a strong vertical element. Japanese maples echo the straight lines of the brilliant-toned sculptures.


The cobalt blue glass sculptures of Garden #3


By contrast to the cooler-toned spaces, this garden is a cheerful composition of oranges and yellows. Japanese sweet flag, gold-leaved forest grass, giant May apple and an assortment of ferns accentuate the deep red trunks of assorted paperbark maples. Just beyond, orange glass balls and eel-like shapes point the way to Chihuly’s lime-colored ‘conifer’ in the distance.


Gold-leaved forest grass paired with orange glass ‘eels’ in Garden #4

GARDENS # 5 and #7

These spaces feature a dynamic red glass sculpture composed of trumpet-shaped botanical ‘flowers’. Silhouetted against dark green weeping Alaskan cedars, the color is nothing short of remarkable. Fothergilla, Redtwig dogwood and Japanese witch hazels round out the garden. 


Chihuly’s red glass sculpture


The largest glass sculpture, composed of wine-colored glass cubes, dominates this garden. Perched atop a bed of Japanese mahonia, viburnum and privet honeysuckle, it makes a dramatic statement against the curves of the translucent Glass House. IMG_1101

Chihuly’s wine-colored glass sculpture ends the garden tour.

For more information on the gardens and their hours of operation, click here for the website.



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