The Art of Topiary

What better way to kick off the official start to summer than a celebration of flowers.

A few weeks ago I made the drive over to Greenwood, South Carolina to meet up with friends who are kindred spirits when it comes to all things flora and fauna. Janet from The Queen of Seaford was our gracious host while the rest of us drove in from surrounding states and nearby cities. Our party included Daricia from A Charlotte Garden, Julie from Southern Wild Design and Julie from Garden Delights.

Janet's picturesque garden sits right on Lake Greenwood and invites visitors to linger and take in the panoramic views. Seriously, if I lived there I'd find it very difficult to get any gardening done. I'd simply plop myself down in one of the colorful chairs that lines the waterfront and never get up.

The garden is filled with a fetching blend of native perennials, stunning ornamentals and unique specimen plants all nestled under a canopy of hardwood and pines trees.

Every plant has a story and a purpose in Janet's garden and she shared these with us as we toured the property.

But I'm actually jumping ahead in the order of events of that day, for once we had all gathered at Janet's that morning we first took the short drive to Uptown Greenwood to view the renowned topiaries and take in the charming downtown area.

'Sweet Caroline' butterfly sponsored by Greenwood Chamber of Commerce

The Festival of Flowers, in it's 48th year, featured 40 mammoth topiaries, sure to wow visitors. And wow they did!

'Baron' Stately Horse sponsored by Friends of the Greenwood County Libraries

Ari the Lion and Jibari the Lion Cub created by Pinecrest Elementary School's Junior Master Gardeners
These topiaries begin as a vision in someone's head and through much hard work by a full horticultural crew lead by Ann Barklow, they become stunning pieces of living art.

'Milak' (the big one) the mama elephant
Horton the baby elephant

They begin taking shape during the cold, dreary winter months when Pat Tafta, a craftsman at a local machine shop, creates the custom designed frames that are the foundation of these topiaries.

'Gertie and Gidget' the Giraffes created by Nancy Collin

'Dino Dude' T-Rex created by ACTS Fine Arts Magnet Program at Brewer Middle School

Within the frames, "bladders" are placed to help fill the inside space so that only a few inches of sphagnum moss and foliage are required. This clever design keeps the weight of these massive topiaries to a manageable load.

Jeep Wrangler created by Lakeland Master Gardeners 

a look inside the front seat of the Jeep
Ferns in the back seat!
An irrigation system is then added which allows the correct amount of water to be directed to each different plant variety in the topiary. The water levels can also be adjusted depending on where the topiaries are placed and how much sun or shade they receive. Pretty brilliant!

'Bubble' the Seahorse created by The Greenwood Family YMCA
Ali's Banana Boy created by Matthews Elementary School

Most of the plants that are used in these topiaries are grown in greenhouses located right in Greenwood. The plugs are started in fall so that they are ready to be used in these fabulous creations the following spring.

'Expect Innovation' Quick Snap Camera sponsored by Fujifilm Manufacturing USA

Creeping Fig is used as a primary cover in many of the topiaries. Silver Falls Dichondra were used to create the mermaid's long sweeping hair. Frosty Curl sedge grass created the mane and tail for the horse and lion. Begonias, Coleus and Polka Dot plants and a variety of succulents are seen in many of the creations. Palm fiber was used to create the giraffes and tiger which are painted to create more realistic looking animals.

As you can imagine, one of the biggest challenges is keeping the plants growing in the proper direction. Plants naturally want to grow up toward the light and when they are planted vertically the plants require special pruning to keep them looking right. Sheep shears are often used for this task.

'Lily' the Mermaid sponsored by Piedmont Plastic Surgery
'Grrrrr Kasasa' the Tiger
These signature topiaries of Greenwood have become infamous with this event which is held annually in June. Each topiary is adopted by a local group and a local business in turn sponsors it. I loved that several local schools participated.

The Festival of Flowers tour also included several city gardens, a school 'roots and shoots' program and two private gardens. I'll be writing about those in an upcoming post. But for now a big thank you to Janet for opening her part of the world to us. Days like these, filled with flowers and fellowship, are ones to savor.


  1. So glad you all came to visit not only my garden but also Uptown Greenwood. Come back soon.

    1. We will have to plan another outing soon Janet! It was such a lovely day and great memories!

  2. So glad you all came to visit not only my garden but also Uptown Greenwood. Come back soon.

  3. You really captured the day, Karin! And with beautiful photos, as always. I agree with you about Janet's garden…so peaceful and lovely. Nice memories. :)

    1. It really was a fabulous day and it was great to hang out with you again Daricia! We'll have to plan another one soon.

  4. You had a wonderful day with friends and flowers. That panda family display was so cool, never saw anything like it. The succulent creations are great too.

    1. Yes, that was one of my favorites too. I also loved the monkeys and the Jeep but they were all very nicely done.

  5. Those topiaries are incredible! Janet's garden is just beautiful - imagine having that view every day - wow!

    1. I would be the laziest person if I had that view to look at everyday!

  6. What a fun day! I wish I lived closer. :o)

    1. Me too! We could get in lots of trouble together, LOL!

  7. Wow, so impressive!! That is so cool, the effect they make with different colored and textured plants. I'd love to get a closeup look at how they water it - it seems like quite a challenge!

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  9. What a fun day that was to extend the Fling all the way down South! Thanks for a great recap! ~Julie

  10. Beautiful views of Janet's garden and oh my the topiary are stunning...some of the best I have ever seen! Creative beauties.

  11. Those topiaries look really amazing, Karin! The people who made them are very creative, as the designs could truly give your garden a character. It's nice that there are events like this one, where garden enthusiasts could draw inspirations they could recreate in their homes. It makes me want to wish that all plants are as beautiful as those.

    Raymond Quinn @ River Oaks Plant House


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One of my favorite things about blogging is the conversation with readers. Leave a comment and let's get talking. ~Karin

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