Living Sculptures in North America’s Best Public Topiary Gardens

May 12, 2022 by

Longwood Gardens Topiary Garden. Image via Longwood Gardens.

Edward Scissorhands had nothing on the horticultural artists who painstakingly sculpt topiaries in some of North America’s most spectacular topiary gardens. Come along with us on a virtual tour to experience some of these unique works of botanical art.

ladew gardens topiary gardenLadew Gardens Topiary Garden. Image via Ladew Gardens.

Topiaries are magnificently manicured plants clipped and coaxed into well-defined living sculptures. A late 16th-century English term originating from the Latin topiarius meaning “of or pertaining to ornamental gardening,” topiary is an ancient art that’s been practiced since the 1st-century CE. Possibly invented by a friend of the ancient Roman emperor Augustus, the earliest documented references to topiary are found in letters by Pliny the Younger, a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome.

These horticultural sculptures run the gamut from classical geometric forms including obelisks, pyramids, cones, balls, cubes, spirals, mazes, and knot gardens to zoo animals and even Disney characters.


Ladew Gardens
Monkton, Maryland

ladew_gardens_topiariy_gardenLadew Gardens. Image via Ladew Gardens.

On its sprawling 22-acre property near Baltimore, Maryland, Ladew Gardens boasts over 100 topiaries created by Harvey Ladew, an avid traveler and self-taught gardener who wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. On a hunting trip in England, Ladew spotted a topiary of several hounds chasing a fox and decided on the spot that he’d never be happy if he could not reproduce this marvelous piece of living sculpture in his garden. The topiary collection shares the verdant property with several garden rooms that include a Rose Garden, Pink Garden, and Yellow Garden.


Montecito, California

lotusland topiary gardenLotusland Topiary Garden. Image via Lotusland.

The former Polish opera singer Ganna Walska devoted many years and considerable resources to creating Lotusland, the botanical gardens that surround the mansion where she resided until her death in 1984. When I visited this garden a few years back, the topiaries looked as if they might become animated after dark to dance and prance about the gardens. The garden’s centerpiece is a 25-foot in diameter working clock whose face features three different low-growing succulents and copper zodiac signs. The 26 topiaries that surround it create a horticultural zoo where animals including a camel, gorilla, giraffe, and seal share the grounds with giant chess pieces.


Longwood Gardens
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

longwood gardens topiary gardenLongwood Gardens Topiary Garden. Image via Longwood Gardens.

With 35 plant specimens sculpted into more than 20 forms, the one-hundred-year-old topiaries at Longwood Gardens range from larger-than-life wedding cakes and fanciful spirals to animals including birds, rabbits, and deer. Go for the topiaries but stay for the Longwood’s six districts of gardens, each representing distinct regions on the property’s 1,077 acres. From the formal layout and highly manicured plantings of the Main Fountain Garden District to the sweeping vistas across natural landscapes in the Meadow and Forest District, each garden is unique with its spectrum of blooming flowers and winding paths through shaded woodlands.


Green Animals Topiary Garden
Portsmouth, Rhode Island

green animals topiary gardenGreen Animals Topiary Garden. Image via The Preservation Society of Newport County.

Overlooking Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, the Green Animals Topiary Garden is the oldest topiary garden in the United States. Along with vegetable beds and orchards, its ornamental gardens of flowering bulbs, perennials, annuals, and shrubs bloom throughout spring, summer, and fall.  The garden’s 80 topiaries include animals and birds as well as geometric shapes and elegant ornamental designs clipped from yew, English boxwood, and California privet.


Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden
Bishopville, South Carolina

Pearl Fryar Topiary Gardens. Image via The Garden Conservancy.

For 20 years, armed with a gas-powered hedge trimmer and salvaged plants, the self-taught topiary artist Pearl Fryar toiled through the night after 12-hour factory shifts to create more than 150 topiaries on his home’s three-acre property. Fryar’s legacy is most appropriately described in his own words:

“If everyone in this country would do one thing for someone who is less fortunate than they are, then we could solve the homeless and a lot of other problems. I use what I have, my God-given talent, to make a difference in other people’s lives. I cut up bushes.”


Mosaïcultures Internationales de Quebec
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
June 24 to October 10, 2022

mosaiculture Quebec 2022 Mosaïcultures Quebec. Image via Destination Québec Cité.

Constructed a bit differently from traditionally-crafted topiary, Mosaïculture is the refined horticultural art of crafting giant topiary-like sculptures using thousands of annual (and sometimes perennial) plants and colorful foliage to carpet steel armatures.

Since its creation in 1999, Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal has presented five international competitions and seven exhibitions, producing more than 100 works in over 20 countries. Traditionally held at the Montreal Botanical Garden, in 2022 Mosaïcultures will be presented for the first time on the banks of the St. Lawrence river at the Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge in Quebec City. The festival theme Il était une fois… la Terre (Once Upon a Time…the Earth) is a “tribute to the beauty of life on the planet and the importance of preserving it.” The festival will feature more than 200 works made from six million plants and flowers of more than 200 varieties. In keeping with sustainable practices, the festival will use all locally-sourced plants cultivated in a special substrate to enhance water retention, and all plants will be composted at the end of the event. Consider starting out in Montreal with a visit to the Botanical Garden, then hop on the Via Rail train for the scenic three-hour and 45-minute ride to Quebec City.


EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival
Walt Disney World Resort
Orlando Florida
Until July 4, 2022

epcot international flower and garden festivalEPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival. Image via Walt Disney World News.

Along with a variety of exotic global gardens, this annual flower and garden extravaganza features topiaries of animals and Disney characters spread out among more than 15 international pavilions. Lumiere and Cogsworth come to life in the France Pavilion and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the Germany Pavilion, while Anna and Elsa along with Trolls share space in the Norway Pavilion. It’s around the world in more than a million plants and a whole lot of topiaries.




  1. Kylee Baumle said:

    What? No Deaf School Park Topiary Garden in Columbus, OH? It’s a lovely rendition of Georges Seurat’s painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte.
    These are fantastic though and figured Pearl Fryar’s work would be featured.

    — May 12, 2022 @ 22:56

  2. Niamul Anan said:

    Looks pretty green. People will love to visit there!

    — May 13, 2022 @ 04:52

  3. Anonymous said:

    I came here specifically to see if the Columbus topiary garden was mentioned. Kinda bummed that it wasn’t.

    — May 7, 2023 @ 22:20

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