Summer Flower Show in bloom at Phipps Conservatory

| Thursday, April 25, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

When you walk into the lobby and encounter an 8-foot, multipiece glass sunflower towering over you, you know something is new at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

The 298-piece, intricately made sunflower — which stands in the Oakland-based Phipps' Welcome Center — greets visitors with their first sight of “Glass in the Gardens,” the conservatory's annual themed Summer Flower Show that opens this week. The show, spread throughout several rooms, features the works of more than 10 Pittsburgh-area glass artists. The glass works include large and small sculptures and glass mosaics by Lisa Platt on the walls of the Welcome Center.

The show continues in the Palm Court, with the passionflower “Passoflora incarnata” creations by Matthew McCormack and Jenn Figg. The windy Serpentine Room features orange marigolds, hot-pink geraniums, hibiscus and other flowers surrounding rotating, lit, stained-glass pillars by Daviea Davis. The Fern Room — which usually stays the same year-round and houses nothing from seasonal shows — even has a few features for the summer show: glass snails on black obsidian rocks, by Nikolaj Christensen.

“I think glass does really well in the conservatory among plants,” says Phipps spokeswoman Liz Fetchin. “I think it's a really nice combination.”

Phipps visitors showed great enthusiasm for the glass creations of Dale Chihuly and Hans Godo Frabel, artists whose work starred in previous Phipps exhibits. Some pieces from each still remain, Fetchin says.

“We wanted to bring the magic back for guests,” she says. “We wanted to support local artists, so it's all local glass.”

In the South Conservatory stands the glass skeleton of a prehistoric wooly mammoth, by Christopher N. Hofmann and Travis Rohrbaugh of the Pittsburgh Glass Center. Chinese lantern glasses float on the water in the Victoria Room.

The whimsical East Room shows a “Wonderland” display of giant glass flowers, flamingolike “leggy birds,” a glass frog and glass fish in a pond. The artist, Gary Guydosh of Greenfield, also created the giant sunflower in the Welcome Center.

Guydosh — who blows and hot-sculpts glass in his studio, Gallery G Glass in Lawrenceville — says that “Glass in the Gardens” educates visitors about talented local glass artists.

“There are a lot of people that still don't know you can get art like mine and others locally,” he says.

Flowers and glass complement each other well, Guydosh says.

“The colors in the glass and the way it reflects the light — it just pops out the plants and the glass and really highlights it,” says Guydosh, who especially likes the look of the glass exhibit at night. “It's totally different if you go in the daytime to see it than in the evening to see it. It will have a totally different look.”

Laura Shoch, plant recorder and display horticulturist, describes the summer flower show as a visual feast filled with lush, tropical plants and flowers surrounded by multicolored annuals.

You can buy many of the plants you see at the upcoming May Market event on May 10 and 11.

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7824.

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