Gardens And Glassblowing Welcome Warm Weather

When winter ice thaws and spring flowers make room for the blooms of summer, New York's Finger Lakes region will come alive: the 11 lakes will sparkle, more than 1,000 waterfalls will flow freely, hundreds of wineries will release their fragrant bouquets, and the surrounding hills will display an amazing array of flowers and plants.

The region's most unusual flora, however, will be found in a popular Finger Lakes destination: The Corning Museum of Glass.

This summer, the Museum will be rich with gardens of glass. From May 18 - November 25, the Museum will feature its major summer exhibition, "Botanical Wonders: The Story of the Harvard Glass Flowers." The exhibition showcases incredible glass plant models by flameworking artists Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, made for Harvard University at the turn of the 19th century. These delicate wonders are so realistic it's hard to believe they haven't simply been plucked from the garden.

As part of the exhibition, the Museum will feature recently conserved models that have not been on display at Harvard in many years, as well as never-before-seen study drawings by the Blaschkas, drawn from the Corning Museum's permanent collection.

The Museum will also demonstrate the flameworking technique that was used to make the models. Stationed at a mid-19th-century Bohemian-style wooden workbench, with a foot-operated leather and wooden bellows tucked underneath, and using an alcohol lamp, glass artisans will fashion their own glass flowers several times a day.

Year-round, the Museum also features live, narrated glassblowing demonstrations, as master glassmakers create beautiful blown vessels out of molten glass in front of audiences at Hot Glass Shows, held throughout the day, every day.

Those who are inspired by these demonstrations and want to try glassmaking themselves can choose from a variety of projects at daily, 40-minute Make Your Own Glass workshops, with activities for all ages. A featured item this summer is a Make Your Own Glass Flower, which visitors ages 14 and over can form out of molten glass with the help of an expert glassworker (glass flowers cost $22 per person, other projects range from $9 to $25 and many are appropriate for preschoolers and older).

The Corning Museum of Glass, the world's largest glass museum filled with more than 45,000 glass art and historical objects spanning 35 centuries, is located in America's "Crystal City," Corning, NY. The small town is nestled in the heart of Finger Lakes Wine Country and is full of charming shops, abundant restaurants, and unique glass galleries. The surrounding region is famous for its wine trails, featuring regional food and wine; many outdoor activities and attractions; and beautiful countryside.

The area is also filled with natural botanical wonders, and the landscape is dotted with farm stands, pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farms, and wildlife refuges. Several gardens and arboretums are nearby:

* Cornell Plantations in Ithaca (60-minute drive from Corning), a living plant museum operated by Cornell University and open to the public, consists of three areas which together span more than 3,000 acres.

* Sonnenburg Gardens in Canandaigua (45-minute drive from Corning) features beautiful display gardens of an early 19th century estate.

* Highland Botanical Garden in Rochester ( 90-minute drive from Corning), designed by Frederick Law Olmstead as one of the nation's first municipal arboretums, is known for its incredible lilac collection of more than a thousand bushes with hundreds of different varieties.

Corning, NY, and The Corning Museum of Glass are conveniently located directly off Exit 46 on I-86/Rte. 17. The town is 4 hours north of New York City, 2 hours south of Buffalo and 6 hours north of Washington, D.C. Admission is $12.50 per adult (select discounts apply) and youth, 17 and under, receive free admission.

The Museum is open until 8:00 p.m. all summer long (Memorial Day through Labor Day), allowing visitors ample opportunity to enjoy the outdoor activities in the region during daylight, and to end their day with a visit to the Museum. -- www.cmog.org

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