Debra Prinzing

Get the Email Newsletter!

Check out the Chihuly Glass sculptures at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden

February 6th, 2009

If you’re lucky enough to travel anywhere in the world, there’s no excuse not to try and visit the local botanical garden or arboretum. My family has become used to this mission of mine and they often accommodate me.

Last weekend, though, I was with my fellow hort geeks, and no one tried to stop me from a garden side trip! I traveled to Phoenix for the Garden Writers Association winter board meeting. After sitting indoors in a board room all day, we rewarded ourselves by racing over to the Desert Botanical Garden, a magnificent place in the heart of Phoenix.

I first visited DBG about five years ago while staying with my parents (they have spent their winters in Mesa, AZ, a suburb of Phoenix for the past five or six years). At the time, I was a Seattle gardener. I was not interested in cactuses or other thorny desert plants. But the visit changed my mindset. The garden dates back to the late 1930s and it is designed beautifully. Who knew then that I would eventually live in Southern California where all these alien plants thrive with little or no water, heat, sun and (practically) neglect!?

Here are a few shots I took on that first visit:

The January 31, 2009 visit had an agenda.

Number one: Tour “Chihuly: The Nature of Glass” show, the Seattle artist’s first installation entirely within a desert garden environment.  Number two: Meet Ken Schutz, the garden’s executive director, who led the GWA board on guided tour of the show (plus, he graciously joined us for dinner following our hour-long walk through the plants-and-glass extravaganza).

We gathered at the DBG entrance and were welcomed with a refreshing drink, straight from the desert: Prickly Pear Margaritas topped with a wedge of lime! You can purchase the Prickly Pear syrup in the garden’s wonderful gift shop.


Enjoy my narrated introduction, followed by my favorite images:


A virtual tour of the gorgeous glass sculpture display:

“Sun,” the opening sculpture

Agaves in glass: the new entry piece

An orange “planet” suspended above the succulent garden

The same piece, illuminated at night

 Orange “flames” and golden barrel cactuses

Translucent forms of orange and apricot – in a sculptural doorway

Red “reeds” in contrast with silvery-blue cactus forms

A classic Chihuly expression: a glass chandelier in blues

The “moon” – viewed at night

Blue “ferns” in a blue garden (notice the fiddlehead tips of each piece)

Blue reeds and blue Agave


An old row boat, on dry land – overflowing with giant glass marbles

A first for Chihuly: pink glass

Metallic glass forms, inspired by green hornet tails

Chihuly after dark

Thanks for joining me on this tour – the exhibit will continue through May 2009, so find time to see it in person!

9 Responses to “Check out the Chihuly Glass sculptures at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden”

  1. Tatyana Says:

    Thanks for your post and wonderful pictures! Dale Chihuly mother’s garden was in Tacoma that is just several miles from our place. I am grateful to you for mentioning Desert Botanical Garden. I go to Phoenix from time to time to visit my mother-in-law but never heard about it. I’ll certainly go to that garden next time I am in Arizona, thank to you!

  2. Robin Says:

    I adore the colorful work of Dale Chiluly, and to see it in this installation is amazing. Thanks for the posting. And I love, love, love your book! I’m one of those readers that gave you 5 stars on Amazon. I rarely bother posting reviews there, but yours deserved it. You made me want a shed, though my yard is too small to accomodate. I’ll have one vicariously by leafing through your beautiful book again. I’m happy to discover your blog; I’m off to explore other posts.

  3. eliz Says:

    Gotta love Chihuly! And I am ready to learn to love prickly pear ritas.

  4. Lori Says:

    The combination of Chihuly with a desert garden is inspired! I never would have thought of it myself, but putting the two together produces a landscape that resembles something from Dr. Seuss. The way the light plays with the glass as opposed to the geometric forms of the desert plants is truly compelling. This is now hands-down my favorite setting for Chihuly’s glass work.

  5. Helen Yoest Says:

    Wonderful Chihuly. I got to spend 2 two-week periods in Pheonix when I adopted 2 of my 3 kids. One in 2000, another in 2002. We went to the botanical garden ever day. They don’t remember since they were only days old at the time. The best time to haul babies around. I learned then I could garden there. Before spending that quality time, I wouldn’t have thought it possible, being the east coast girl that I am. Thanks for this reminder.

  6. Jayme Says:


    So jealous you were in Arizona, my old stomping ground, in January. That is what I miss about living there, awesome winters! Succulents and cacti are some of most favorite plants, especially the ocotillo cactus. I love how it looks dead, then comes to life when it rains.


  7. Theresa/GardenFreshLiving Says:

    Absolutely stunning. Thanks so much for sharing your visit. All I kept thinking was “How do they install, remove and store some of those pieces without breaking it?” Some of them look so delicate. The night shots with the lights were beautiful.

  8. Alice Joyce Says:

    Hey Debra, I do not always warm to Chihuly’s work, but this display looks really engaging, and apropos.

    Alice Joyce’s last blog post..Valencia’s City of Arts & Sciences, gardens & architecture

  9. Tom @ Prefabricated Structures Says:

    Oh boyoboy what an epiphany– Chihuly in the winter desert light! I can just feel the briskness of it.
    OK for me the muted colors work best, but the stark desert flora goes very well with the delicate, often prickly glass. Next time I’m in Phoenix…!

    Tom @ Prefabricated Structures’s last blog post..Prefabricated House, New Orleans LA

Leave a Reply