WORDS BY: STEPHANIE WISNET
Let your mind wander for a moment and imagine yourself in a tropical rainforest. You’re walking along a lush path with tillandsia and showy orchids growing overhead and bromeliads blooming at your feet. A waterfall can be heard in the distance as you pass the large leaves of monstera, a familiar fiscus, cocoa and citrus trees, palms of all shapes and sizes and a plethora of exotic flowering plants. But the most stunning of all you realize upon rounding the bend, is a bold orchid towering over you at nearly 12 feet tall. The enlarged details take you by surprise and you turn to realize you’re standing among grand botanicals like you’ve never seen them before. An energetic 6-foot Venus flytrap grins in your direction, vivid four-foot pitcher plants wait with cupped leaves agape for their next meal, and oversized orchid blossoms pop with color around you.
While this sounds like an experience from a science fiction novel, it can actually be found close to home this summer. Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden near Charlotte, North Carolina, will host an awe-inspiring, larger-than-life botanical glass exhibit, Grandiflora: Gamrath Glass at the Garden, opening Friday, May 24. Guests will be mesmerized by nearly 40 vibrant installations made up of hundreds of pieces of glass by Seattle-based artist Jason Gamrath including gigantic orchids, pitcher plants, Venus flytraps, columbine flowers, a corpse flower and more scattered throughout the Visitor Pavilion, tropical Orchid Conservatory and outdoor garden spaces.
The immensity of Gamrath’s botanical works captivates audiences and calls attention to the beauty of normally tiny details within the natural world. “The most beautiful, extravagant man-made object could never creatively equal the simplest and smallest naturally occurring life form,” said Gamrath. “The purpose of creating this series on a macro scale is to bring to light the beauty that exists within the micro scale of nature. Small plants, although minuscule in comparison to our human-sized way of existing, are overwhelmingly perplexing when held inches away from one’s face. When I scale life forms up to be larger than a person, they can be observed with this perspective from across a room due to the overwhelming physical presence they command. I encourage people to attempt to observe with the same eyes through which I humbly and graciously experience our natural world.”
A Seattle area native, Gamrath began studying glass sculpting at the young age of 15 and has worked and trained with many renowned artists including Preston Singletary, Karen Willenbrink, Richard Royal, Ross Richmond and Sally Prasch. He studied at the world’s most comprehensive center for glass art education, Pilchuck Glass School in Washington, which was founded by world-famous glass artist Dale Chihuly and patrons Anne Gould Hauberg and John H. Hauberg in addition to Seattle’s Pratt Fine Arts Center.
This summer the gardens will feature big, bold, beautiful plants with large flowers and leaves to complement Gamrath’s sculptures and the Garden’s perennial displays. Gamrath’s work is collected internationally and the pieces on display at the Garden will also be available for purchase while smaller pieces will also be available in The Garden Store. In addition, during the day guests can explore the Butterfly Bungalow, a pollinators’ paradise abundant in fluttering butterflies native to North Carolina and a colorful display of their favorite plants, and enjoy a cold beverage and live music in the Beer Garden on select evenings.
Grandiflora: Gamrath Glass at the Garden is the first of its kind at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, but follows cultural art exhibits such as ZimSculpt and a Chinese Lantern Festival. The Garden, which opened the doors of its Visitor Pavilion in 1999, celebrates 20 years of horticultural beauty in 2019 just 30 minutes from uptown Charlotte in Belmont, North Carolina. Today the breathtaking Visitor Pavilion welcomes visitors to 110 acres of formal garden spaces including a children’s garden, a conservatory dedicated to the display of tropical plants and orchids, annual and perennial displays, sparkling fountains, walking trails and more.
Guests can experience this unique exhibit daily May 24 through Sept. 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and also in the evenings Thursdays through Sundays May 30 through Sept. 29 from 6 to 10 p.m. Admission to the Garden and exhibit is $14.95 per adult, $12.95 per senior ages 60 and up, $7.95 per child ages 2 through 12, free for children under age 2, and free for Garden Members from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. while Garden Members receive a 30% discount on admission for evenings from 6 to 10 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door for daytime admission and both online and at the door for evening admission.
Stephanie Wisnet is the Marketing Manager for Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. For more information on this new exhibit, please call 704-825-4490 or visit www.DSBG.org.