Tuesday, November 30, 2010



Leaf Beyond Belief: 11 Tree-mendous Examples Of Topiary Art

Posted: 30 Nov 2010 10:00 AM PST

[ By Steve in Art & Design, Geography & Travel, Home & Garden. ]

What is it about the human condition that compels us to bend nature to conform to our wishes? Even the humble garden is not immune, as these 11 tree-mendous topiaries tell so well. They may look "bush league" but you’d better be-leaf creating them takes mad botanical skills rooted in a love for landscape art.

Town Of Topiary, Railton, Tasmania, Australia

(images via: Wikimedia, Heather Birch, Leo Farelly, Nikkii Daniels and Tassie Tourists)

Some folks will travel to the ends of the earth to find good topiary and Railton, Tasmania, suits that qualification to a T. Herds of verdant elephants strut majestically across green meadows towards a waterhole they’ll never reach, while scattered about the town topiary depicting ostriches, a tarantula and even a squad of soldiers stake out their own patch of ground.

(image via: Heather Birch)

Railton’s evergreen menagerie includes creatures symbolic of Tasmania, an island state located south of eastern Australia. It may be safe to say that the topiary sculpture of the Tasmanian Tiger above may be the only one in existence.

Topiary Park, Columbus, Ohio, USA

(images via: The Topiary Park and Larry Hamill Photography)

Art apes art at the Topiary Park (formerly the Old Deaf School Park) located in downtown Columbus, Ohio, where resident topiarist James T. Mason has patiently created a homage to French pointillist painter George Seurat’s famous nineteenth century painting, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte." Seurat created his crowning masterpiece by meticulously applying paint in minuscule dots, or points, over a period of two years. Unlike the painting, Mason’s topiary tour de force continues to evolve, changing both with the seasons and in response to the occasional trimming.

(images via: The Photo Garden Bee and Larry Hamill Photography)

Topiarist Mason began the installation in 1989 by setting up bronze frames that were to be the backbones of 54 afternoon strollers, 8 boats, 3 dogs, 1 cat and of course: the mysterious Capuchin monkey. To quote Mason, "The Topiary Park is a landscape of a painting of a landscape. If an artist can paint a picture of a landscape – art mimicking nature – then why not a sculptor creating a landscape of a work of art – nature mimicking art?" Why not indeed… which is Mason’s, er, point.

Bang Pa-In Royal Palace, Ayutthaya, Thailand

(images via: Search.com, Virtual Tourist and Garden Visit)

The exotic and expansive Summer Palace at Bang Pa was built for King Rama V, Thailand’s 19th century modernizing king famed for his fictional depiction in the play and film The King and I. The palace features extensive, well-maintained topiary gardens that flourish in part due to the region’s lush, tropical climate.

(image via: Travel Webshots)

A heard of elephants is not unexpected for a Thai topiary garden but a gathering of rabbits? Modern fashions notwithstanding, Thailand had a leg up on punk rock style long before The Clash ever rocked the casbah… at least, if the above "green hare" is any indication.

Wimbledon’s Topiary Cameraman

(images via: Bud Collins Tennis)

Atop the Broadcast Centre at London’s All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club – commonly known as Wimbledon – is a rooftop garden not many know about. The focal point of the garden is a topiary statue of a cameraman, neatly trimmed as if an actual techie froze stiff while doing some winter filming and was taken over by ravenous English yew.

(image via: PaidContent:UK)

The topiary statue is eerily accurate right down to the cameraman’s standard issue flat cap, also known (according to Wikipedia) "as a sixpence, scally cap, Ivy Cap, Irish Cap, salmon hat, UNION Cap, Dai cap, Jeff cap, Windsor cap, touring cap, driving cap, or Newspaper Cap.” Those Brits really love their hats… and their topiary gardens.

Ladew Topiary Gardens, Monkton, MD, USA

(images via: Wicanders Cork Oak Blog, New Lantern and HorseHints)

Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, Maryland, is one of America’s most famous topiary parks. The landscaping’s high quality is no accident: the gardens were first designed in the 1930s by award-winning topiary artist Harvey S. Ladew (1887-1976). Visitors often state the highlight of a visit to Ladew Topiary Gardens is viewing the acclaimed Fox Hunting tableau. Ladew was an admire of English country culture and the scene features every major participant in a traditional fox hunt from riders to hounds to the fox himself. Tally ho!!

(image via: Ladew Topiary Gardens)

The Garden Club of America declared Ladew Topiary Gardens to be “the most outstanding topiary garden in America,” and the living sculptures in the 22-acre park live up to their rave reviews. The park contains a few topiary topics one might not expect to find in rural Maryland… such as a fully rigged out Chinese junk.

Beatles Topiary, Liverpool, UK

(images via: The Sun and Art On The Network)

"The Fab Four have been transformed into Fab Foliage!" Leave it to those wordsmiths from across the pond to perfectly describe the city of Liverpool’s topiary tribute to their hometown heroes, The Beatles. The shrubbery grown in Tuscany, Italy was coaxed into anthropomorphic metal cages by artist Franco Covili on behalf of Art On The Network. Eighteen months later, the specially selected Privet hedge had filled out the figures and the ensemble was put on display just outside Liverpool’s South Parkway train station.

(image via: Art On The Network)

Staff at the station (Billy Shears, anyone?) have been carefully trained in the art of topiary maintenance, ensuring the privet bush doesn’t overgrow its confines and those trademark Beatles bouffants retain their mid-sixties vibe. All you need is shrub… shrub is all you need.

Flower Puppy by Jeff Koons, Bilbao, Spain

(images via: Bethany J Mitchell, TravelPod/Btran and Purple Cloud)

Want to traumatize your cat? Bring it to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, in Bilbao, Spain, where you’ll find a 43 ft (13.1 m) tall West Highland White Terrier guarding the entrance. Luckily it’s not real (but Mr. Frisky doesn’t know that), at least not flesh & blood. Jeff Koons’ monumental topiary "Puppy" does have a circulatory system of sorts: an internal irrigation system used to keep its flowery fur as fresh as daisies.

(image via: Wikipedia)

If you think you’ve seen this gigantic, flowery puppy somewhere before, you are correct sir! Koons’ colossal canine embarked on a world tour (well, Germany, Australia and New York) before settling in at the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Since it did, the rain in Spain falls mainly on the pooch.

Shanghai International Mosaiculture

(images via: Jevedebe and People’s Daily Online)

Shanghai, China, hosted the 2006 International Mosaiculture exhibition and competition which featured a staggering variety of ingenious topiary sculptures. Animals were rendered in exciting ways: ducks flapping their way through a wetland and dolphins leaping into the air supported by water fountains, just to name a couple. Topiary was also used to enhance architecture and depict static objects like bamboo folding screens, historical painted masks and much more.

The following video is almost 10 minutes long but it gives the viewer a good idea of what it would be like to walk amongst the topiary gardens at the 2006 International Mosaiculture exhibition:

Mosaiculture Shanghai 2006 Edit Clip, via Facilemovs

(image via: Good-Times Webshots)

People were also represented by topiary at the 2006 International Mosaiculture exhibition in Shanghai’s Century Park, such as the group of children shown above playing traditional Chinese games like marbles and hoop rolling. The 2006 Mosaiculture competition allowed participants to really push the topiary envelope in new ways, such as using contrastingly colored plants to add depth and texture to their creations.

Topiary Art Designs, Suffolk, UK

(images via: Daily Mail UK)

Not everyone who’d like to have topiary in their yard knows how to "grow their own", so to speak, and their isn’t a topiary specialist on every block… unless you live in Bury St Edmunds, UK. Even if you don’t, Steve Manning does on-site topiary consultations though with clientele lie Prince Charles you can be sure the fee is, er, rather princely.

(image via: Daily Mail UK)

Manning and his wife Jackie run runs Topiary Art Designs you’ll need both time and money should you opt for their services: up to £6,000 per completed piece, and you’ll wait as long as 3 years for delivery once you place your order. The results are spectacular, however, and well worth it for those whose yards can accommodate the Manning’s life-size, finely detailed creations.

Sea Serpent Topiary, Disney World and Disneyland

(images via: Waymarking/Rayman and Scott A Dommin)

One of the most famous topiary sculptures is that of the sea serpent at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. It can be found near the entrance to Tomorrowland where the moat surrounding Cinderella’s Castle reflects and mirrors its structure to best advantage.The serpent is formed from 5 separate topiary sculptures that take the form of the mythical creature’s undulating coils.

(image via: Peter E Lee)

Tokyo Disneyland also features a topiary sea serpent – perhaps it’s a standard feature of Disney theme parks. Tokyo’s version is a bit different, however, opting for a dash of zen tranquility and the charmingly manicured wakes each segment of the serpent creates as it glides majestically through a sea of green beneath a sky of blue.

Guerrilla Topiary

(image via: myLot)

Mooning bush… not just for Democrats anymore! The image above has become an Internet constant over the past 4 or so years since it was first posted, often cropping up in, well, posts such as this one. Facts and info on the image are hard to come by – is there a real mooning bush somewhere in suburbia annoying the heck out of too-serious neighbor, or is it just a clever photoshop displaying some Walter Mitty’s shear fantasy? One thing’s certain: the (gr)ass really is greener on the other side of the fence.

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[ WebEcoist - By Steve in Art & Design, Geography & Travel, Home & Garden. ]


My Round the World Adventure

My Round the World Adventure

Airline Review: American Airlines

Posted: 30 Nov 2010 11:10 AM PST

american airlines tailNorth American airlines always rank among the worst in the world. In any survey, Asian and Middle Eastern airline are always among the top 10 airlines in the world. But as an American, it's easier for me to join the frequent flier program of an American carrier because I can get a branded credit card and rack up miles. We have four major choices: American Airlines, United, Delta, and US Airways. (Continental doesn't count because it merged with United).

Out of those four, I stick with American Airlines because they have the best customer service, a good frequent flier program, and friendly staff.

The flying experience on American Airlines is a lot better than other American airlines, and their planes are nicer too. American Airlines fleet may be a bit old (all the carriers are), but they still have a nice interior and their newer model planes are really good. The AA 767-300, for example, is pretty good. It's their newer model and is a bit more spacious. The AA 767-200 is nice and it includes wi-fi. Unfortunately, like most American carriers, AA doesn't offer personal television screens in the back of the seats on any of their continental flights. (I’m not even sure they have them internationally). Qantas flights from Sydney to Perth have personal screens, as does a two-hour flight on Eva Air flight, but you can forget about personal screens on continental flights in the US. I'd be more upset about this if AA was the only airline that did this, but every major American carrier does it with the exception of Jetblue and Virgin America. Even when I get upgraded to a better class, there are still no screens. This bothers me to no end. I don’t think there’s an excuse for not having personal screens in 2010.

Televisions aside, what keeps me flying with American Airlines is the service and their loyalty program. AA's frequent flier program has better perks and rewards than its major competitor, United. You can forget about delta too, since Skyteam only has a few airline partners. While Star Alliance has more carriers, United (the major US Star Alliance partner) has an awful redemption policy. They don't offer as many perks on lower elite status levels and their upgrade policy isn't as good. Moreover, it takes more points to redeem your flights. I like American and, if the flight isn't full, I'm automatically bumped up to the next class. Plus flights can be redeemed starting at 12,500 miles.

The main reason I like American is because they have better service. I've found their ground staff to be good, and their flight attendants are more accommodating than other airlines. If I oversleep and miss a meal or they run out of something, they usually give me a left over meal or some free alternatives. Plus, they usually pour me a stiff drink when I ask. They aren't as grouchy as staff from other airlines and that makes a big difference.

But what really sealed the deal with American was an incident that happened a few weeks ago. I participated in the American Airlines challenge, which meant getting 10,000 points in three months for Platinum status. The booking code I had for my flight to Sydney should have qualified me for platinum status, but a Qantas desk agent messed up when I checked in and I didn't get my points. I accumulated regular miles, but it didn't count towards the challenge. Needless to say, I was quite upset and I called AA to complain. I also tweeted about my experience with them. A few days later, I received an email stating that they would give me platinum status because I had bought the ticket in good faith. They thanked me for my loyalty and now I have elite status on American. Last year, United broke a guy's guitar and even after the guy made a viral video of it, they barely did anything. American Airlines seems to have learned a lesson from that incident.

So while AA's planes are only slightly better than the rest and they still don't TV screens in the head rests, at least they have good staff and better service than the rest of the carriers. At the end of the day, we use companies because we not only like their products, but also their staff. It's the people that make the companies. And I like the folks at American.

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