Blossoming Blown Glass at Denver Botanic Gardens

World-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly's garden installation is a must-see before its Nov. 30 departure.

Photos by Michael Mundt

Dale Chihuly, "Neodymium Reeds" at the Denver Botanic Gardens through Nov. 30, 2014.

Dale Chihuly, "Neodymium Reeds" at the Denver Botanic Gardens through Nov. 30, 2014.

     After three years as goldfish owners and discovering they MIGHT NEVER DIE, we found the perfect home for them: the ponds in the Japanese Garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

     Filled with giant koi and surrounded by lush greenery, the ponds offer a serene setting for the seemingly contented fish, evident as we peered over the dock at them on our first-ever outing to the venue.

     “We could just drop them in, and no one would notice,” I told Michael, peering over my shoulder and noticing a woman nearby, smiling at my comment. I looked back at my boys, craning over the railings toward the koi with rapt attention.

     “I meant our fish, not our kids,” I said to her, laughing.

     Don’t get me wrong: we like goldfish. But once we learned they potentially live more than 20 years, well, that seems like an eternity to clean a fish tank.

     Plus the habitat is all the more idyllic now, embellished through November 2014 with sculptures that resemble giant, metallic Christmas ornaments in blue and purple jewel tones, part of the blown-glass installation by world-renowned American artist Dale Chihuly (pronounced chuh-HOO-lee).

     Credited with elevating blown-glass work from craft to fine art, the Seattle-based artist’s works have been featured in museums, gardens and buildings worldwide. In fact, one of his most recognizable pieces is the iconic chandelier that greets visitors in the Las Vegas Bellagio hotel lobby, Fiori di Como, a dazzling rainbow of 2,000 glass blossoms.

     And the Denver Botanic Gardens is one of several locales lucky enough to display Chihuly’s latest version of Garden Cycle, a traveling exhibit he created in 2001 specifically for garden settings.

     But, if I may be so bold to say so, this whimsical installation has ruined my first experience at the Gardens. Why?

     Because it’s so stunning that I’d only notice the absence of Chihuly’s sculptures in future visits.

     A kaleidoscope of colorful, otherworldly shapes interspersed among the 24-acre grounds as if they were meant to stay permanently, I can’t imagine this place without them.

     From the grand fire-and-ice pieces that greet you near the entrance—“Summer Sun” and “Blue Icicle Towers”—to delicate zebra-striped tendrils tucked among the flora; white jellyfish-like pieces to the soaring, 30-foot “Saffron Tower,” Chihuly’s vibrant works spread among 14 sites enhance an already beautiful setting.

     And the exhibit is sure to be all the more vibrant during Chihuly Nights, when the pieces become illuminated in Colorado’s autumnal sunsets, Oct. 3 through Nov. 30, 5:30-9 p.m.

     Then once Chihuly’s masterpieces have left the Gardens, we’ll just have to make sure we get there in time for the kids to visit the Mordecai Children’s Garden, which we missed this first time but have heard is a highlight for families. Plus we’ll always have the Japanese Garden to visit and say hello to our goldfish.

For more information, visit the Botanic Garden's site here.