A visit to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville to see the “Chihuly: In The Forest” exhibit has been described as “a world of wonder, waiting to be explored.” This is true, but it was much more than a unique experience; it was also a primer about plants that can thrive with little care in the woodlands (and thus make good candidates for our gardens).
Many of you have already visited the Chihuly exhibit and shared your photographs on Facebook. Although “In The Gallery” closed Aug. 14, “In The Forest” continues through Nov. 13, so there’s still time to explore the wonder in the forest.
Dale Chihuly is an acclaimed glass artist whose vision has centered around color, shape, light and transparency for 50 years. His stunning creations are familiar to art lovers and glass enthusiasts around the world, including visitors to the Smithsonian and botanical gardens in many states. My introduction to Chihuly was his glass ceiling display in the Bellagio Hotel lobby in Las Vegas (Actually, it was the highlight of the trip.) and later at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.
But viewing Chihuly at Crystal Bridges is a little different. Transforming a trail into a setting in the forest befitting the monumental-scale of the sculptures was a year in the making, and it was impressive.
The museum staff planted many unique natives, taking care to mix them with the old and young trees as Mother Nature would have. Special attention was given to the design effect surrounding the art sites to enhance the experience for viewers.
To diversify the north forest from the other trails, native woodland plants such as goat’s beard, bottlebrush, buckeye, pawpaw, cutleaf staghorn sumac, astible and bear’s breech were planted. There were many hardy ferns — ostrich, maidenhair, and moss — flanking the colorful art as well as hundreds of oakleaf hydrangea growing throughout the grounds of the museum.
While many of these natives were planted earlier this year and are still young, they are thriving. However, a return visit next year may be needed to see how well the plants naturalized in their new setting.
Still in bloom were coralbells, cardinal flower, hibiscus, beebalm and toad lily.
We saw hummingbirds nourishing on bright red cardinal blooms and evidence that deer had nibbled on the leaves of coralbells and bergamot.
All this native beauty was growing alongside many, many weeds — some waist high. For a few minutes, it was hard to resist getting down and pulling them up. In our home gardens, weeds identify us as lazy gardeners. And like many of you, I have been pulling mulberry weed all summer, and no relief is in sight. But here, weeds were a perfect fit and actually added some beauty with their interesting seed/flower heads.
Since a gardener’s goal is to never allow weeds to develop flowers or seedheads in our gardens, it was an opportunity to actually see and admire these flowers. For example, Johnson grass’ flowers are large, loosely branched purplish, hairy panicles. Flower stalks of Dallis grass are drooping spikelets with two rows of flat, egg-shaped seeds.
We also spotted devil’s claw. Although it is a native plant, it can also be classified as weedy. According to Wikipedia, it is a weed of cotton crops known to cause drastic loss of fiber yields. Other Google sites say the curved fruit pods that “split into two claws” when they dry are used in nature crafts. These dried pods can hitchhike on clothing, animals and even trucks passing by. This may be one you don’t want to introduce into your garden.
And speaking of art in the forest or in the garden, Clive Bell, the British philosopher who defended abstract art, once wrote, "... a work of art is like a rose. A rose is not beautiful because it is like something else. Neither is a work of art. Roses and works of art are beautiful in themselves."
And that’s the introduction to the Fort Smith Rose Society’s annual rose show that will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Fort Smith Public Library. It is open to the public from 1-5 p.m. both days. Admission is free.
Rose growers from throughout the Arkansas/Oklahoma region exhibit the best roses from their gardens and compete for queen of the show. Even if you don’t exhibit roses, you’ll enjoy attending the show and seeing roses at their very best.
It also will allow you to decide which roses you may want to plant next spring. And an information booth will be set up for questions.
“Although the show will not be as large as usual, we will have some good blooms and expect to have a good show,” said Rosarian Ralph Cooper. Fort Smith Rose Society is the oldest rose organization in Arkansas.
Next week, the topic will be: pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!
Lucy Fry of Fort Smith is a level 4 Master Gardener and writes the area Master Gardener newsletter. Her column, Gardening for the Record, runs weekly in the Times Record. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.