Glass Sculptures Bloom at the Denver Botanic Gardens

“Summer Sun,” a glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly, at the Denver Botanic Gardens ©Laurel Kallenbach

Late summer is a great time to visit the Denver Botanic Gardens, and until the end of November, the gardens features an exhibit of glass art created by Dale Chihuly.

My husband and I attended on a warm, sunny September day and reveled in the late-summer colors—golds, yellows, reds—as the flowers have a last hurrah before the coming cold weather.

Chihuly’s somewhat avant-garde glass sculptures are integrated into the floral color schemes of various gardens and ponds. They sometimes augment the flora—but more often eclipse it, usually being bolder and brighter than the foliage around it. That was OK by me, although I did still appreciate the less flashy shows of dahlias, black-eyed susans, mums, cacti, and more.

A stunner, “Summer Sun,” was possibly my favorite of the glass sculptures with its spherical nest of spirally, curly-cue, fire-colored branches, both treelike and solar.

“Float Boat” is a rowboat full of playful glass bubbles. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Water art was likewise appealing. The Monet Pool, with its stately water lilies, featured a whimsical rowboat overflowing with brilliant, swirl-colored bubbles. Nearby, the Japanese Garden pool was the location of a sapphire-colored amphibious boat, with onion-shaped “bobbers” in the water.

Wandering from sculpture to sculpture was a treat—especially after a week of dreary rain. So, a Sunday afternoon stroll in the sunshine was welcome respite—and the glass was certainly photogenic. Lots of other people had the same idea, so at times there were crowds, which abated about the same time as kickoff for the Denver Broncos game.

Dazzling dahlias at the Denver Botanic Gardens ©Laurel Kallenbach

I hear a reliable rumor that nighttime is an even more breathtaking time to visit the Chihuly exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens; lighting on the glass would be even more impressive.

I’m checking the calendar now to plan that after-dark excursion.

Green at the Gardens

A few words about the sustainability aspects of the Denver Botanic Gardens. First, its Visitor Center is powered by a solar photovoltaic array located on the roof. The array currently in place produces 10,000 watts, one third of the Gardens’ planned total. Ultimately, the solar system will be enlarged to produce 30,000 watts of solar panels, enough to completely power six Denver homes. This will reduce CO2 emissions from burning coal for power by 90,000 pounds per year.

“Polyvitro Crystal Tower” and “Blue Crystals” by Dale Chihuly ©Laurel Kallenbach

Another eco-friendly aspect of the Gardens is that it showcases water-efficient gardening practices—important in Colorado and the West, where water is a precious resource.

A number of gardens are created with climate-appropriate, low-water plants. Several gardens require no irrigation at all. Visitors can get tips from the Botanic Gardens on how to practice water-efficient gardening in their own yards.

The Dale Chihuly “Garden Cycle” glass exhibit will run at the Denver Botanic Gardens through November 30, 2014.

For more info on Chihuly’s art, visit

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor


Denver Botanic Gardens Showcases Southwestern Sculptures & Spirit

A warrior sculpture in bronze by Allan Houser at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

If you haven’t seen the Denver Botanic Gardens’ exhibit, called Native Roots/ Modern Form: Plants, Peoples and the Art of Allan Houser, hurry over. The exhibit is on for just one more month, until November 13, 2011.

Houser’s exquisite bronze sculptures are wonderfully set among Southwestern plants at the Gardens and show the artist’s connection to the land and his pride in his native ancestry. An American modernist, Allan Houser (1914-1994) was a tribal member of the Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache, and he’s famous for his depiction of native themes and visages.

This exhibit celebrates bonds between people and also presents American Indian uses for plants indigenous to the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest.

The Botanic Gardens has once again melded sculptures and botanicals into something unique to behold.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Navajo shepherd by Allan Houser. Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

Photos © Laurel Kallenbach

Art Al Fresco: Four Seasons of Henry Moore Sculptures at the Denver Botanic Gardens

Henry Moore’s "Mother and Child" heralds spring at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo: Laurel Kallenbach

I’ve had the privilege to see the exquisite sculptures by 20th-century British sculptor Henry Moore (1898–1986) at the Denver Botanic Gardens in spring, summer and winter. (I missed fall because I was traveling elsewhere.)

Moore’s iconic, modernist masterpieces have been incorporated into the lovely garden settings since last March.

But hurry: the Moores leave Denver after January 31, 2011, and they shouldn’t be missed.

Evergreen Art

The beauty of viewing art al fresco is that the sculptures reflect moment by moment what’s happening in the landscape. (And Moore, who was heavily influenced by the natural world, surely meant for his bronzes to be enjoyed outdoors.)

Moore’s smooth surfaces and organic lines transform by the hour as the light shifts. The sculptures transmogrify by the season as the foliage around them blooms or withers.

“Mother and Child” during December’s Blossoms of Light display. Photo: Scott Dressel-Martin

Compare the outdoor experience to seeing a piece of art in an indoor museum, where the artificial light is static and the surrounding walls do not change shape or color.

And, even though they’re abstract, Moore’s sculptures feel very human and tactile. The smooth surfaces, although bronze, have a skin-like quality.

Green in the Gardens

“Oval with Points” with April crabapple blossoms. Photo: Laurel Kallenbach

You should visit the Denver Botanic Gardens to enjoy its plants, flowers, fountains, pools and outdoor art—but here’s another benefit: the nonprofit organization is also committed to sustainability.

  • In July 2009, the Gardens started installing solar panels to generate renewable electricity from the sun. The solar array currently in place produces 10,000 watts, one third of the Gardens’ planned total array of 30,000 watts, which will be enough to completely power six Denver homes.
  • Denver Botanic Gardens’ research staff collaborates with organizations and agencies to protect and conserve many of Colorado’s rarest plant species.

    “Large Reclining Figure, 1984” in summer. Photo: Laurel Kallenbach

  • The research staff also works to control and eradicate invasive plants, considered second only to habitat destruction in causing species extinctions. The staff conducts research on the impacts of invasive species such as tamarisk, saltcedar, Russian olive, and cheatgrass.
  • The Gardens are an invaluable resource for gardeners who want to learn more about low-water, high-altitude growing.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

“Large Reclining Figure” in winter.      Photo: Scott Dressel-Martin