Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Franklin Park Conservatory

Photo by OHventures

Franklin Park Conservatory
1777 E. Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43203
(614) 645-8733

Forget about lawn gnomes and tacky plastic flamingoes. The Franklin Park Conservatory added a whole new breed of garden ornaments to their greenhouse. Amidst trees and cacti lies a garden of glass. Towering to the ceiling, vibrant hand-blown glass in the shapes of plants and flowers are integrated with their real-life counterparts.

People from the beginning of gardening have always been interested in putting artwork in their gardens. This ranges from stone statues in the days of ancient Greece to today's residential backyards.

The Franklin Park Conservatory has taken this classical idea and pushed the envelope by putting artwork in a conventional botanical greenhouse.

The Conservatory, located at 1777 E. Broad Street, added Dale Chihuly's "Fiori" collection in 2006 and it has truly transformed the building, giving it a fresh and fun feel.

At the start of a tour of the Conservatory, visitors enter the Hot Shop, which is a room dedicated to explaining the process of glass blowing. On the wall are seven steps to the process that are demonstrated once a month during special programs at the Conservatory. During these programs, the floor is covered in graffiti, and examples of hand-blown glass are exhibited.

After the Hot Shop are the beautiful botanical gardens, complete with trickling waterfalls, stone tunnels, bamboo bridges and an array of exotic and unique plants. As the paths twist and turn, tourists are taken through desert, rainforest and Pacific Island settings. Many of Chihuly's works are found around an unexpected turn.

The most impressive pieces are the enormous yellow cacti in the desert section and the lofty red and yellow Sunset Tower piece in the Pacific Island section. Also impressive, are the hand-blown glass "rocks" scattered in a pond inhabited by a family of fish in the Pacific Island section.

Visitors can also see the Mille Fiori exhibit in the Showhouse for free. It is an elaborate collection of Chihuly's work, with patterned glass designs and intricate detailing.

The tour is completely indoors, and can serve as a peaceful refuge to many people. It is a fantastic destination for a romantic trip.

The Chihuly display has made the Franklin Park Conservatory one of the top cultural destinations in Columbus. The Conservatory is one of the few cultural institutions in the world to permanently house one of Chihuly's major collections, according to the official Web site. Other locations with "Fiori" displays are New York, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Washington and Switzerland.

The Franklin Park Conservatory is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is closed on Monday's. On Wednesday's, the Conservatory is open until 8 p.m. Student tickets cost $6.

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