For the last week we have been potting several hundred Barnhaven primroses for the Chilhuly Glass Garden in Seattle. We provided them with a few thousand a couple years ago so now they need more. This reminded me of the blog I wrote last year so I decided to share it again. Here it is.
Here in the Northwest where glass has really made its mark, as has gardening, what better marriage than a glass garden. I had the opportunity recently to tour the Chihuly Glass Garden with the garden designer Richard Hartlage. Everyone knows what a fabulous artist Dale Chihuly is and Richard brings a similar energy and creativity to garden design.
I had the chance to work with Richard at the Miller Garden for 5 years. He was the director and hired me just out of horticulture school. I learned something from him every day. Some of it was actually useful. Just kidding. We became good friends and I learned how to look at gardens differently. He would see the big picture of what could be not just what was there. The vision of what could be was usually only limited by imagination and budget (that little detail).
The indoor portion of the Chihuly Museum had some extraordinary pieces. As you move from room to room you are exposed to one beautiful wave of color and light after another. I’m still trying to figure out how some of it is assembled. Each blown glass segment is a piece of art on its own but collectively they are over the top and truly works of art at its best.
As you move out into the outdoor space the glass pieces are equally beautiful. The fact that they are showcased with plants really make them pop. They aren’t just any plants. The garden on its own would be one of the best public gardens without any glass. Richard possesses that unusual quality for a landscape architect, he knows plants well. By knowing the plants he knows how they respond to the elements such as wind. While at the Miller Garden we created a waterfall using Japanese forest grass because the motion of the grass would mimic the movement of water. You need an artists eye to visualize this type of planting.
Black Mondo Grass
Where many people think of group planting, like 3, 5 or 7 Richard prefers to think in the thousands. I saw one of his east coast designs where a thousand Hakonecloa, Japanese forest grass, were planted to cover a mound. The movement of that hillside was mesmerizing. In the Chihuly Garden he used bulbs to fill in between other plants, 50,000 of them. You get the same kind of effect from these mass plantings as the bold glass sweeps give the same space. The glass and the plants don’t compete, they compliment each other.
primroses from Old Goat Farm
A few year ago Richard asked if I would grow a few primroses for the garden. It was the Barnhaven polyanthus type which we had grown at the Miller Garden years ago. He wanted 9 colors to match the glass. It ended up being about 1000 which I can see wasn’t enough. Maybe a thousand of each color. The color match was good though.
Being exposed to people with such vision makes me want to make my own garden better. I think it is important for me to keep exposing myself to this kind of creativity. I think I may be a regular at the Chihuly Garden. Thanks Richard for the vision. EXTRAORDINARY!
Sunburst with Black Mondo Grass
Sunburst at the needle