Chihuly Night at the Dallas Arboretum

This is a small piece of a huge “tree” of glass set amidst other flowers; it was easily 20 feet tall and 10 feet diameter.

Prominent artist Dale Chihuly has his traveling installation on display right now at the Dallas Arboretum. It is also a gorgeous time to visit the lush gardens of Big D, so last week I took a couple of days to visit there.

Lotus flowers in the entrance waterfalls.

I chose to go on one of their advertised “Chihuly Nights”. Arriving at 6:00 p.m., we first wandered the gardens in daylight so I could ooh and aah at the hydrangeas, ferns, trial gardens, hanging baskets, ponds, waterfalls, lake, fountains, water walls (there’s a LOT of water here) and so much more. Funny, when I lived in the DFW area (my first 35 years), I had fantasies that Austin was much more lush, green and wet than north Texas. With the rolling hills and evergreen Live Oaks of the Hill Country, it has a character that north Texas is missing. I didn’t realize how different the climates really were.

One of the biggest things I miss here is the lack of wild thunderstorms that I grew up with; here I’ve rarely gotten to enjoy that electrical ozone-charged smell in the air following an adrenaline filled night of storming. North Texas is just enough farther north to be in Tornado Alley; I can remember a few times of the tornado sirens going off, but only once was the tornado close enough that I took animals and loved ones and rode out the storm in an interior bathroom.

Blooming white water lilies set amidst the real thing.

As excited as I was to see the amazing Chihuly exhibit, I was equally as thrilled to get a taste of the type of gardens I grew up with. When I first started gardening in Austin 6 years ago, I naively imagined that I could have a similar lush, Southern garden. I spent a lot of money, time, blood, sweat and tears in that fruitless effort. Our soil, climate and rainfall patterns are just not conducive to “lush”.

This display was entitled the Hornet; you can see the hornet’s tails entwined with the ribbons, all floating on a lovely calm formal pool.

It was also lovely to see the people strolling through the gardens into the night. In Dallas, you don’t wear khaki shorts and flipflops everywhere. Ladies were wearing hats, sundresses and strappy high-heel dressy sandals for the event. Men were in slacks or nice jeans. Of course, I’ve now succumbed to the Austin casual style of dress; combine our extra humidity, hotter nights and longer summers, and shorts and sandals have to be the standard.

These gorgeous blue stalks set off by the yellow daylilies were especially pretty.

Most of Chihuly’s works were nestled into beds of annuals, perennials, or water. There were a few that were so huge they signaled an entrance into a different area of the park. This tall yellow icicle tree was created specifically for the Dallas show. Chihuly creates one piece of custom glass sculpture unique to each different city of his tour.

I cropped this intentionally with the person included so you could get some idea of the magnitude of this piece.

A closeup of the vast amount of icicles in this huge piece of art.

The Dallas Arboretum is nestled next to White Rock Lake. There are many plantings and water features that take advantage of that expansive view, with even an infinity-edged pond at one point. Water abounds in this park, and each vignette has its own personality.

These glass spheres and swirls were floating in old wooden boats in one of my favorite displays.

The Chihuly exhibit goes until the Fall. I may return again after the summer heat wanes a bit; I’d love to see the Arboretum in its Autumn cloak and get more plant combination ideas. It’s a season that needs more nurturing in my yard. Okay, we don’t really HAVE Fall here, so maybe that’s why I haven’t embraced fall annuals to spruce up the garden after the summer’s brutal spanking.

One of my favorite displays of the night. These are only one set of the dancing glass sculptures placed in the spilling WaterWalls in the Women’s Council Garden.

There are several planting ideas that I jotted down in my notes; the Arboretum is a privately-endowed, well-funded garden, and the plantings are in a grand abundance.  I saw many combinations that I can use here on a smaller scale in my own garden.

Love that purple and green! This is also another water installation in the formal pond area. Love the rocks on the bottom of the pond.

At 66 acres, the park doesn’t feel huge. In fact, until I just now looked it up, I thought it was smaller than Zilker Gardens (30ish acres here, half the size!). In the nationally acclaimed Dallas arboretum, with much money pledged to it in private funds, all of the park is utilized with vignettes, water features, seating areas, concert amphitheaters, dining options, allees, bridges, natural and formal settings and everything in between. It’s a great place to go for ideas. The ease of movement throughout and small, intimate areas reduce the vastness to an easy scale. I wish we had a similar program for the upkeep of Zilker, something the Austin City Council apparently just nixed. Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center is a great example of what a reasonably well funded Hill Country garden could look like, though I know it could use more infusions of cash for their programs.


Annual Salvias reflect the colors in these curving glass stalks.

Tickets are $2o for adults, which includes parking. It wasn’t overly crowded, though I did make it a point to attend before school has let out. You can bring your own picnic, which many people did. I loved seeing the well-dressed couples sitting on blankets with candle- lighting and bottles of wine.

These remind me of peppermint sticks; I brightened the dark image to show you how each glass piece is set into the flower beds. This looks like it might be New Guinea impatiens; this was a shadier part of the gardens at this point.

The gardens do a fabulous job of showing off plants; I think I finally learned the lesson of taking one plant and planting swaths and swaths of it in a large group to make a statement. It made common begonias and impatiens become beautiful focal points with a lot to say. Just because they are common doesn’t mean they aren’t pretty; they just need to be used correctly.

These large balloons were a lot of fun; the swirls reminded me of seashells.

It’s worth the trip to Dallas for an overnight vacation to witness this world-class exhibit. I hope you get to see it!


12 thoughts on “Chihuly Night at the Dallas Arboretum

  1. I can see that Chihuly at night is well worth the extra for night visit. I have seen an exhibit in the day time at DBG and that was amazing too, but I see night looks spectacular. Glad you had a good time and enjoyed the garden. Picnic on the grass sounds perfect. Well, Robin you may have enjoyed those storms but I an tell you if your house was stuck by lightning you would have a different opinion. Remind me to tell you some time. I was glad to leave the mid west after that happened. Remember Little Albert and the fluffy bunny? That’s me>

  2. Beautiful, beautiful! I can imagine it was an enchanted evening. I had read a bit about the exhibit, but couldn’t imagine it. But, who could imagine something like this? Spectacular!

  3. Robin…..You are amazing! you are truly brilliant that you are able to communicate and share the beauty of that night!~ I am so glad I got to share it with you! You could submit your blog to the DMN and get it published!!!!

  4. I need to find the time to go see this! I suck at dealing with the heat, so if you want to go back in the fall, let me know. Road trip!

  5. There was an article in the San Antonio newspaper today about the Chihuly exhibit. My sister in law saved it specifically for me. It’s like fate is telling me I should go.

  6. I’m glad you were able to visit, Robin, and I appreciate seeing the pieces at night. Yes, the Arboretum is a well-endowed garden. I wish Zilker Botanical Garden had even a portion of their funding — it needs it!

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  9. I absolutely love the glass work of Dale Chihuly. I have seen his work in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Seattle. If you want a real treat he has a museum in Tacoma Washington. It is worth visiting as well. Your pictures are wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

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