Gardens and art were part of this past week’s adventure as I worked on recharging, reinvesting, and reinventing myself at the annual conference of the GWA, the Association of Garden Communicators (www.gardenwriters.org).
This year, more than 300 of us gathered in Atlanta, Georgia to polish our communication skills and visit area gardens.
Thirty years ago, I spent a long, hot, humid summer in Atlanta, working in the science reporting unit at CNN (then known as Cable News Network). In the intervening years, the gardens, like the rest of the region, have grown and matured.
We visited beautiful private gardens not far from the city center. One was styled in a Southern version of Tuscany-meets-France and included a formal knot garden.
Knot gardens are carefully constructed plantings of small scale shrubs, usually two or three different types, chosen to create color contrast: deep green against light green or silver or lime green and sometimes burgundy. The plants are tightly pruned so when seen from above, they look like colored threads woven in intricate knots.
In another corner of that garden, an espaliered Ginko tree caught my eye. I’ve seen fruit trees as espalier and shrubs as espalier but never a Ginko. It was stunning.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden
Our visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden coincided with an exhibition of Chihuly blown glass. Stunning glass pieces were placed strategically among the garden’s plantings.
We found Chihuly glass around every corner and integrated into every area of the botanical garden.
Past the dancing glass flames is the Tropical Rotunda, their tropical plant conservatory, which is filled with palms, bananas, epiphytes, and other plants I expected to see. What made it even more magical were the narrow roots of Cissus vines, cleverly planted high overhead so their roots hang down in etherial veils.
Next to the tropical rotunda is the Garden’s orchid display house which, in a word, is fabulous.
Atlanta Botanical Garden also features two fantastic plant sculptures similar to those we saw on display at the 2012 Floriade in the Netherlands. This horticultural art form is called “mosaiculture” and is described as the “evolution of topiary.”
Mosaiculture starts with a steel skeleton that gets covered in steel mesh, then a moss-filled netting, and fitted with complex irrigation systems before being planted. Some are elaborate, others whimsical. The process reminded me of the episode of A Growing Passion where we followed the construction of Rose Parade floats.