Glass and gardens are great partners. The dynamics of blown glass capture the echoes of plant growth. I love to see the gleam of glass—small colorful float balls tucked into containers; robust spears stretching upward as focal points; bright dishes spreading open like lilies to capture rainwater among the foliage. But it wasn’t until I saw the Chihuly flower sculpture suspended inside a custom-created glass house at the base of the Seattle Space Needle that I was inspired to seek out a local glass maker to find out more about how glass can be used.
I talked with Barbara Sanderson, a Seattle area glass artist who creates and installs her glass works in gardens around the country. I asked her about using this material indoors—especially in greenhouses. “Glass provides so many advantages in any setting,” Barbara says. “It features year-round color in all climates without the need for fertilizing or watering and adds instant bling for both small and large gardens.” Big installations, she says, not only serve as focal points, but they accentuate established garden plantings. Depending on the type of glass used, it can even bring whimsy wherever it is placed.
All these attributes work indoors as well, either in a greenhouse or a sunny room where plants shelter for the colder months. Unlike tender plants, Barbara says glass doesn’t need to be brought in. “It’s not going to crack in cold weather.” But, she adds, “The large spear and sphere shapes are especially suited to tropical plants. And the hot colors—bright orange, yellow, pink—you can enjoy them up close in a greenhouse.”
Barbara has spent her life working with glass. She tells me she first saw glass being blown when she was seven years old and her family visited the Corning Museum of Glass in New York. “I was mesmerized.”
Since then, she has created plenty of garden bling as well as custom glass for both outdoor and indoor situations. In one memorable indoor feature for a California homeowner, she installed glass pieces in a narrow planter that divides the dining room and hallway. By day, light streams in through large windows, catching the colorful shapes among the native grasses. At night, the glass glows. Some are lighted pieces, and others are up lit with small spotlights. “It is very beautiful and calming,” Barbara notes.
This winter, when you trundle your containers inside your home or greenhouse, you might consider bringing in—or adding—your own bit of bling to lighten the colder months.