I had the opportunity to visit the Atlanta Botanical Gardens last month while speaking at a symposium for the Garden Writer's Association and was thrilled to discover that my visit coincided with an exhibit of Chihuly's work. While enthralled by the sheer scale and extravagance of his masterpieces I was also intrigued to seek out design lessons for homeowners with a more modest budget!
Glass as a Focal Point
Perhaps the most obvious use of glass art in any garden is to make a statement, to catch the eye and become a focal point. Often these focal points are on a primary axis or at an intersection of pathways.
This fountain was perfectly centered in a formal garden, commanding attention from every direction. Elegant without the glass. Exquisite with it.
Do you already have a fountain or water feature in your garden? Could you enhance it by adding some glass art?
Think about whether you want to mimic the movement of water or suggest plants growing in or floating upon the surface.
Using Glass Art to Enhance an Existing Focal Point
It may be hard to imagine a Chihuly piece playing second fiddle to anything but as the following images show, while the glass is in itself remarkable it can also be used in more of a supporting role.
Notice how these vertical glass elements draw the eye upwards to the evening Atlanta skyline – visible when walking this path in a clockwise fashion. To my eye the skyline is the focal point, enhanced and framed by the glass.
Yet stroll the same path anti-clockwise and you will perhaps better appreciate these flickering flames of glass are being used to pierce the billowing meadow-inspired plantings, creating punctuation points. So in one direction these glass pieces are seen as enhancing a focal point (the skyline) and in the other direction they are creating a focal point themselves. Intriguing.
Can you get your glass art to multi-task in this way? What about placing the art at a turn in the path. Can you relate it to something unique when walking that path in opposite directions?
Back to glass art and water for a moment; the primary focal point below is the botanical sculpture (usually with water flowing from the Earth Goddess' hand but we were here before regular opening so the pump had not been switched on).
Yet the glass filled Fiori Boat and Niijima Floats bring this scene to life. They may not be the primary focal point but their inclusion suggests a magical story; "Once upon a time, in a time before time…….."
Does this give you ideas? Floating glass balls on water is an inexpensive way to create a Chihuly moment but can you take that a step further and create a vignette that tells a story?
Or this scene from the conservatory shows how a backdrop of glass rising from a carpet of soft ferns perfectly frames the reflecting pool (the primary focal point), while repeating the organic form of the tropical foliage.
One of the easiest way to start designing with glass art in your garden is to repeat the color of adjacent foliage and flowers.
Framed by tiers of yellow blooms and yellow-variegated foliage this glass sunburst grabs your attention no matter which direction you approach it from, or at what time of day.
Which brings us to the final design tip – add lighting to your glass art so you and your guests can continue to enjoy it in the evenings. Did you notice that several of these shots are taken at dusk. I loved my daytime visit so much that I went back again in the evening. Lighting adds dimension, enhancing reflections, intensifying color saturation, framing and highlighting.
I'll bring the wine…..
If you would like more ideas on using glass art in your garden you may enjoy these posts;