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RE: Glass Flowers

Long lunch hour - sounds like these were exhibits that would have
stretched my lunch hour into a couple of days!  Sounds wonderful - I'm
glad you got to see them and wish I had the chance.

Zone 7 - West TN

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-gardenchat@hort.net [mailto:owner-gardenchat@hort.net] On
Behalf Of Libby Valentine
Sent: Saturday, November 15, 2003 8:56 AM
To: gardenchat@hort.net
Subject: [CHAT] Glass Flowers

I'm on a short project at Harvard University, and I took a long lunch
the other day and went over to the Harvard Museum of Natural History,
with two targets in mind: the special exhibit of photographs by Bradford
Washburn (mountaineer and photographer, I guess he would be considered a
contemporary of Ansel Adams but in the mountains,  pictures in the
exhibition from 1929-1978), and the glass flower collection.  The
photographs were stunning. I didn't know anything about the glass flower
collection until I happened to follow a website link to it, but it is

The flowers were commissioned in 1886 by a professor who wanted to have
life-like models from which to teach botany all year round.  They were
made from 1887 through 1936 by a father and son team of glassmakers near
Dresden, Germany.  Not quite all of the models are on display, but I
understand there are over 4000 models of about 850 species, including
plant specimen models and then various enlarged flower and plant parts
for study as well.  It's amazing.  I cannot imagine the skill and
patience required to accomplish this - picture a 3 foot section of
goldenrod, with all its tiny flowers, including multiple flower-heads,
stem, leaves.  Some of the models are complete with root systems -
basically look just like you pulled the plant up with most of the roots.
Kitty, I thought of you when I was trying to remember some of the
specific different plants represented there, since the labels had the
botanical name (but I'm not sure as of when!) and then 1 to 3 common
names for each model.  I'm afraid I tried to remember too many, because
now I can't, with any confidence in correctness, remember any.  Oh well.

Everything from 7 species of salix to clematis to chickory to venus
flytrap to a couple small cactus in flower - picture one of those, a 6"
high section with hundreds of spines and multiple flowers - must have
taken weeks to do just that one! There were 2 models of foot long maple
twigs, showing summer and autumn color, probably a dozen leaves on each
twig.  All glass.  And they look so real - I kept reminding myself I
wasn't just looking at a bunch of cuttings.  I found the dahlia
interesting because the flower was not the complex and impressive bloom
available today, it was a single flower with a small number of wide
petals.  I am not familiar with all the history behind the cultivation
of the dahlia, but I believe some of the fancier varieties might well
have been developed in the last hundred-plus years, so that particular
one, and also the clematis, which was very plain, seemed more a model
from a historical point in time - the rest of the plants and flowers
known to me appeared to look just like they do today.  They were

I wished some of you could have been there to share it with!

Maryland zone 6

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