Monday, May 31, 2010

May: Chihuly at the Meijer Gardens


Last weekend I visited the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with Monica and her friend Amy. Our primary goal was to see the exhibit Chihuly: A New Eden. However, since it was my first time visiting, I looked forward to seeing the gardens and artwork as well. Thank you to Amy Sawade of the Meijer Gardens for hosting us, and to Monica for making the arrangements!

This is only my second Chihuly exhibit; I saw his show at Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory back in 2002. This show was a little different because it included pieces closely associated with plants as well as outdoor free-standing sculptural pieces and the occasional use of a lightweight polyvitro material.

These turquoise Trumpets may have been my favorite pieces because of their color and their cheerful singing forms. This picture had to be taken from inside the main building; many of the installations in the English Perennial Garden were frustratingly hard to see, tucked behind hedges and low fences. I understand the need to protect the glass but finding a good angle to view those pieces was difficult.

Another piece in the English Garden, Blue Reeds, was tall enough to be visible from several angles. I liked this view with the Siberian irises in the foreground. Several other colors of Reeds--red, purple, lime, and yellow--could be found elsewhere in the gardens.

The Rose Crystal Tower is one of the polyvitro pieces, a departure from the typical smooth Chihuly forms. It is the centerpiece of the Volunteer Tribute Garden just outside the conservatory. It reminded me of rock candy and I was tempted to touch it to see if it was sticky in the sun (but of course I didn't!).

Some pieces are designed for water, like these Floats. In their waterfall setting they add a dash of color and playfulness. I appreciated this form even more after watching the glassblowing video running in the main building. Glassblowing is a dangerous, tough, manly activity as it is; imagine handling and shaping a ball of molten glass 30 or 40 inches in diameter.

The piece known as Yellow Boat was stunning in the sunshine. The shiny, flawless, brightly colored glass paired with a shabby wooden boat was a wonderful contrast that made me think of a rustic harvest basket full of yellow peppers and eggplants. Meanwhile, across the pond, Blue Moon sparkled in the sun, and on the surface of the water, Walla Wallas floated like Christmas ornaments.
IMG_5344 IMG_5335
Closer views of Yellow Boat and Blue Moon


I am not usually drawn to the large, complex sculptures. This one, Summer Sun, was off the beaten path and we had it all to ourselves for long enough to get close and inspect it from all angles. It turned out to be an extraordinary piece that we kept exclaiming over as we discovered ever more intriguing shapes and colors hidden inside.
IMG_5348 IMG_5352

The cobalt bowls of Basket Forest dressed up the conservatory. These vivid blue pieces were each filled with smaller blue bowls.

Lena's Garden progresses in a rainbow of colors from violet to red across the cafe ceiling. It is very awkward to find the perfect angle for a photo when so many people are around doing crazy things like sitting and eating lunch. And I just now realized that there are green leaves tucked in with the flowers. There is always something interesting to discover in these pieces!

Finally, Belugas huddle at the edge of the kettle pond. Not the usual place you'd expect to see belugas! In such a shady site, the white stands out; I don't recall much, if any, use of white glass in any of the other pieces.

All in all, it is a fantastic exhibit for both Chihuly newbies and devotees. For those of you in the Chicago area, Grand Rapids is an easy three-hour drive. The Chihuly exhibit runs through September 30, but of course the gardens and sculpture park are always there (and will be the subject of a later post!).

To see the rest of the photos, visit the Flickr set here.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

May: Planting out the nasturtiums

Milk jug crammed full of happy nasturtium leaves

Out of nine 'Spitfire' nasturtium seeds planted March 13th, eight germinated; time to sprouting was 20 days. They grew like weeds in their milk jug and I never had to do a thing for them. I am a believer; wintersowing is great!

I tipped out the soil and found a tangled mess of roots:
Now I see why people wintersow in individual peat pots! Luckily, the soil was nice and loose and teasing apart the roots wasn't very difficult.

I know I'm pushing the May 15th last-frost date a bit but 1) I'm in the Lake Michigan buffer zone, so am less likely to get frost in May than other parts of Zone 5, and 2) my urban backyard is a warmish microclimate. So, on May 1, I planted my seedlings out:

In the raised garage garden, by the trellis with the barely-flowering,
unmanageable, unkillable clematis...

In the back of the prairie garden, in heavy, rocky soil, next to the alley fence 
(and another on the alley side, to dress up my trash cans)...

In the recently top-dressed soil of the prairie garden, amidst downy sunflowers,
under the trellis with the white Henryi clematis...

In heavy clay soil next to a downspout by the veggie garden...

And the last two were potted up along with three more seeds because why not? I watered everybody and wished them luck. If they can escape being trampled by the resident beagle, I think they'll do well.

"I'm growing Nasturtium "Spitfire" for the GROW project. Thanks, to Renee's Garden for the seeds."