Visit to Desert Botanical Garden and Chihuly Exhibit: Desert twilight and Chihuly after dark


Have you ever visited a garden twice in one day? After a late morning/mid-afternoon stroll through Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden on April 4th, I returned just before sunset to enjoy the “magic hour” of light and see the Chihuly glass sculptures dramatically lit.

The low, warm light was indeed magical, incandescing these creosote fruits and turning saguaros into hulking silhouettes.


I love that DBG is open to visitors for 12 hours each day, from 8 am to 8 pm; if you’re a member you can enter as early as 7 am on certain days. Early arrival is much better for photography, for beating the heat, and for seeing a garden with few other people. Late departure, as I found, is pretty awesome too.


I headed for the Wildflower Loop as dusk fell, where silvery Agave colorata and pink evening primrose, along with other wildflowers, continued to shine.


The lilac and ivory seedpods of paperbag bush (Salazaria mexicana) glowed in the fading light as well.


Closeup of paperbag bush


Lilac and ivory in the larger landscape


The birds and I enjoyed the majestic saguaros…


…catching the last rays of the setting sun.


This hummingbird busied himself at the ocotillo snack bar for a pre-bedtime snack.


I wasn’t the only one shooting the evening light. Behind the photographers, on the butte in the distance, you can see the Chihuly installation “Desert Neon” — a line of neon cacti marching up the hill.


The saguaros themselves seem to be giving the finger to the universe.


It was nearly dark by the time I left the Wildflower Loop. The gardens were festive with laughing people, and no wonder — a wine bar had been set up in one of the plazas. The Chihuly pieces were illuminated for nighttime viewing.


I only saw a few of them, as I was dead tired by this point and ready to find my hotel.


The sculptures’ bright colors really stood out at night, illuminated against the subtle gray-greens of the cacti and succulents around them.


This Chihuly “sun” piece was my favorite, glowing brightly after the desert sun had gone to bed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this 5-part series on my visit to Desert Botanical Garden. For a look back at the Edible Garden, palo verde splendor, and Chihuly balloons, click here. You’ll find links to the other DBG posts at the end of each post.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Visit to Desert Botanical Garden and Chihuly Exhibit: Edible Garden, palo verde splendor, and Chihuly balloons


During my April 4th visit to Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, I flitted from trail to loop to gallery with no concern for the map or where the Chihuly pieces were located or any knowledge of the garden beyond what I’d gleaned from the blog posts of Jenny/Rock Rose, Noelle/AZ Plant Lady, Loree/Danger Garden, and Gerhard/Succulents and More. (Have I missed anyone? Feel free to add your favorite DBG blog links in the comments).

That led to me missing some Chihuly pieces (like the boat full of glass balls) and gardens (how did I miss the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop and the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop?). But it also led to some serendipitous moments, like having the wildflower trail to myself before the hordes descended, leisurely birdwatching, and the surprise and joy of turning a corner and seeing vignettes like this: a scrim of fragrant lavender in front of a yellow Chihuly piece resembling a balloon-animal octopus.


By the time I’d stumbled across the Edible Garden, the sun was nearing its zenith, as this prickly sundial shows.


Awesome pattern and texture


Y’all know I’m not really into edible gardens, but DBG has a nicely designed one, with raised beds, sandstone walls, and red shade cloths that can be stretched over steel frames as needed.


Just past the edibles, this vision held me spellbound for a good ten minutes: a glorious palo verde in full bloom against a china-blue sky, the ground carpeted with golden petals, a red hill in the distance.


So beautiful


I also really liked this steel-and-rebar arbor, the top in a branching design.


Isn’t this clever?


One of my favorite Chihuly installations appears just across the trail from Archer House: purple reeds (or tubular balloons?) and spheres like giant bowling balls set amid agaves and yuccas.


Even the flat light of midday couldn’t take away from their beauty.


By now I was thinking of lunch, having gotten up at 4 am, hopped on the 2-hour flight to Phoenix, and come straight to the garden, so I headed to the cafe, stopping along the way to admire this ocotillo blooming against blue sky.


Yellow-flowering aloes caught my eye too…


…especially when I noticed a hummingbird sipping from the tubular blossoms.


So cute


After a late lunch I headed out since I was meeting Steve Martino later that afternoon. Here’s one last look at “Desert Towers,” the garden’s permanent Chihuly piece, and the flowering garden around it. But I would be back at 7 pm to see the garden in the evening light and the Chihuly sculptures illuminated at night.

Up next: My final post from Desert Botanical Garden features sunset views and Chihuly sculptures at night — dramatic light, both natural and artificial. For a look back at Archer House garden and Desert Living Trail, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Visit to Desert Botanical Garden and Chihuly Exhibit: Archer House garden and Desert Living Trail


If you’re a birdwatcher, you really must visit Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. I arrived around 10 am on April 4th and saw more birds than I could identify, photograph, or count. Imagine an early morning visit, when all the birds are waking up! This dove amused me by perching complacently on a leaning cactus.


Is it a spiny or cushy perch, I wonder? That’s a palo verde tree in bloom behind him. These trees had turned the entire city gold that first week of April.


The Chihuly exhibit was on display while I was there (and will be until May 18). These serpentine pieces serendipitously echo an agave bloom spike in the foreground.


This agave was a stunner with its smooth skin, triangular leaves, blue-gray color, and symmetrical form.


It’s wicked looking, isn’t it?


I think the yellow wildflower is Perky Sue (Tetraneuris ivesiana), a relative of our native four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa).


One of the mega-sculptures in the Chihuly exhibit is this red-and-yellow, bristling tower. (You can see a yellow version of ‘Icicle Tower’ in my post about Chihuly at Dallas Arboretum in 2012.) I was lukewarm on many of the other placements, but this one is a standout — monumental against a rugged red hill studded with iconic saguaro cactus.


A Rooney’s prickly pear echoes the tower’s color scheme in reverse.


The Desert Living Trail diverges from the main loop with entry through a tunnel-like arbor of rust-red steel. Bougainvillea were just starting to climb the supports.


These metal structures fit in beautifully in the desert gardens.


A series of arches


In a patch of flowering aloes I spotted this red-breasted bird — a house finch?


Nearby a hot-pink wall made a standout backdrop for a cluster of potted plants, including a matching bougainvillea.


Colored walls and spiky plants — a fantastic combination


I believe the garden superintendent once lived at Archer House, but I can find no information about it online. At any rate, the beautiful gardens surrounding it offer lots of inspiration for local homeowners.


The dark-khaki house color allows the house to blend into the background and lets the silvery plants shine.


Aloes, artemisia, agaves, and santolina


Cool lines


More lines on the porch roof — a ramada shelters the porch from the Death Star, providing welcome shade.


A large patio extends in the other direction, and the ramada widens to shade it too. The linear shadows are mesmerizing.


The view from the other direction. A ramada like this would make an inviting destination in a home garden, wouldn’t it?


On the patio, an agave echoes the leafy form of its handcrafted pot.


The view from Archer House’s front porch. The purple spires are Chihuly glass sculptures. I’ll have more pictures of them in my next post.


But first let’s stroll around the side of the house and enjoy this intimate garden framed on two sides by khaki-colored walls.


Two wooden benches sit at the ends of paths, offering a secluded place to rest and enjoy the pretty view.


The wall, with a line of small, rectangular cutouts that admit light, and the lines of the porch ramada make a nice backdrop for this garden space.


Behind the house, a shady garden offers relief from the desert sun, which was pretty intense even in early April.


A large bowl filled with water and surrounded by river rock makes a striking focal point for the shade garden. A small amount of water in a dry garden makes such an impact, creating the feeling of an oasis.


A semicircular banco offers an intimate spot to sit — or hide out.


This pretty, lightly fragrant honeysuckle, ‘Pam’s Pink’, rambles along a low wall near the banco. ‘Pam’s Pink’ is a Texas Superstar plant and is said to be less aggressive than the yellow-and-white honeysuckle wise gardeners fear to plant.


I feel an inordinate fondness for any plant that shares my name.

Up next: The Edible Garden and a cactus sundial, plus more Chihuly sculptures. For a look back at the Cactus and Succulent Galleries, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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