There are few places where Gardens and Art truly become one. The Topiary Park in Columbus, Ohio, is one of them, if not the only one. Within this masterpiece of convergence, garden and art lovers can insert themselves in George Seurat’s famous neo-impressionist painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte.
The garden’s creator and sculptor James T. Mason began assembling the bronze internal infrastructures for this topiary delight in the late ’80s. Although the final topiary structural frames were finally placed by 1992, The Topiary Park site explains, the yew trees are still being coaxed toward toward their final potential.
According to Friends of the Topiary Garden, this incredible work of garden art began in 1989 with the installation of the pond to represent the River Seine and the creation of the frames which include 54 afternoon strollers, eight boats upon the pond, three dogs, the Capuchin monkey and the cat.
The Friends of the Topiary Park write:
“Though the Topiary Park that we know today was dedicated in 1992, the seven-acre park’s history goes back much further. The topiaries are nestled within what was historically called Old Deaf School Park, which has a past spanning back to the early 19th century. The popularity of the topiaries and their attraction to tourists has led the park to become popularly known as the Topiary Park. However, when you look at the park’s roots you find the history of the Ohio School for the Deaf, the inspiring story of James and Elaine Mason who first dreamed of a topiary garden and, of course, you see the muse: Georges Seurat’s famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte.”
The origianl painting by George Seurat measures nearly ten feet across. It was painstakingly created with thousands of individual lttle oblong, dot-like strokes of isolated colors. The technique became known as pointalism, a common term for the divisional technique that utilizes the abiltiy of the eye to mix isolated colors at a distance. It seems fitting that the topiary work is also made of thousands of little patterned leaves as well. Each leaf is like a nod to one of Seurat’s carefully placed strokes.
The painting and this lovingly interpreted topiary set the scene of a Sunday in the park complete with afternoon of families, couples and animals enjoying a relaxing late afternoon by the river. The painting shows combinations of cultures and classes here as well. An upper class man complete with a top hat sits near a woman and an oarsman. The men gaze out upon the river Seine. A fashionable Caphuchin Monkey on a leash is seen on the right. There are mothers with children, courtesans and even a horn player. Despite the sheer variety of visitors, they all seem rightfully in their Sunday afternoon place. I have always enjoyed this work and look forward to seeing its topiary compliment. I must thank The Art Istitute of Chicago for allowing me to show the original work here.
The Friends of the Topiary Park was created in 1991 to maintain the garden. They write that they are, “a nonprofit organization dedicated to the support and promotion of the Topiary Park”, who, “organize all fundraising and volunteer efforts for garden upkeep, general administrative duties, running the Visitors’ Center and providing docent-led tours. The Friends have also been instrumental in raising funds to maintain and develop the park’s resources.”
The Topiary Park in Columbus, Ohio is open from sunrise to sunset. Visit http://www.topiarygarden.org/ for more information and opportunities to support their terrific work.
I am planning to visit and photograph this garden this Summer. As always, if you know of any other garden gems, please visit The Bee’s Suggest a Garden page or pop me an e-mail.