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.

17 Responses

  1. SCurry says:

    I feel a teensy bit bad for the mams in that sundial set-up. What’s going to happen, in the long term, when the barrels start putting on heft?

  2. That last image is a favorite, I’ve always loved it but now I see there are agave spikes adding to the mix!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’m surprised, Loree. I never thought you’d say a garden photo with art/sculpture in it was a favorite of yours! And yes, the agave spikes add the perfect accent to this spiky profusion. —Pam

  3. Mary says:

    Gorgeous! I love the Palo Verde in full bloom. I’ve always liked its form, but have never seen it exploding with blooms like that. The Chihuly sculptures are great! Feels like a beautiful, alien world out there. Your hummingbird pic is amazing.

  4. Lost Roses says:

    Wow, those purple spikes! What an eyeful of beauty – you really captured it.

  5. shirley from memphis says:

    I don’t like the glass sculptures. I think they’re an annoying distraction from the plants and are not complimentary to them.

  6. I love the contrast of the cool, smooth, delicacy of the glass against the hot, spiky strength of the cacti. Even though I worry about hail damage, I’d be honored to complement my plants with such beauty. It reminds me of the surprise beauty of cactus blossoms.

  7. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Absolutely fabulous photos. I just love the Chihuly glass. You make it look spectacular as you frame the pieces in your photos. Those tall skinny pieces are my least favorite when seen in person. They seem to disappear into the landscape but you have brought them to the fore beautifully.

  8. Wow, the palo verdes truly were stunning. This gives me hope that mine (I have three now) will look like that in a few years.

    You picked the perfect time of year for a visit. You captured truly spectactular vistas.

  9. TexasDeb says:

    I think Lisa at Greenbow is on to something. It is viewing these works AS YOU FRAME THE PIECES in your photos that helps break the experience down into delightfully consumable bits. Standing in front of them, having to filter out ambient noise, other people, and all the parts of the view that you have carefully (and rightfully, artistically) cropped out, they probably don’t work so well.

    I think this (at least in part) explains why garden bloggers so often carefully frame our euphemistic “moments” in the photos we post of the views our beds afford. We want to focus on (and simultaneously screen out) anything that might interfere with the desired effect. When looking back on photos of my garden beds as they once appeared I;m often struck by how great they looked when I know for a fact that at the time I was wringing my hands about something not prominent in that photo.

    Ahem. This got long-winded… Thank you for taking the time to not only visit but to so wonderfully share what you saw while there. I appreciate it!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Interesting discussion, TexasDeb. I actually think the process as you describe it in the first paragraph works the opposite way. When we view a garden scene, our eyes automatically seek out a focal point (or pattern or converging lines, etc.) and our brain screens out all the distractions that take away from that scene. You might say to yourself, “That’s beautiful,” and lift your camera and snap a photo. But when you view that photo later, it’s not uncommon to see all those distractions that your brain filtered out right there in your photo: a hose lying on the ground, power lines overhead, the back of someone’s head, trash bins in the distance. Needless to say, this makes for a disappointing photo and doesn’t convey the beauty that the eye appreciated.

      It’s the photographer’s job to carefully frame a scene (or crop it later) so that any distractions aren’t captured in the photo. A good photographer learns to see those things before shooting, and change the angle of the shot or zoom in or even move an object in order to home in on what’s important for the shot. To me, framing is the most important basic photography skill. The next most important is learning to use and compensate for light — my own biggest challenge.

      I got long-winded too! Thanks for sharing your observations and musings. Photography is an important part of garden blogging, so discussions about it are always useful. —Pam

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