Monday, May 24, 2010

A Silly Mother's Day

This post should've been posted right after Mother's Day but hey, I'm a mother and I've been busy! We braved the rainclouds that day and headed out to Gilroy Gardens. Plenty of amusements for the kid and plenty of plant related oddities for me.

Basically, if Willy Wonka and the Jolly Green Giant were to partner up and create an amusement park, Gilroy Gardens would be it.

The home to many oddly grafted trees, originially grown by Axel Erlandson, some of which were created in the 1920's. After Mr. Erlandson passed away there was no one to take care of the trees but luckily they were purchased and moved in 1984 to the park's current location. The trees are wonderful examples of patience, creativity and a dash of crazy.

diamond treeloopy treehoop treetable leg treetunnel treelattice tree

The park has added many clipped topiaries in fantastical shapes: elephants, butterflies, bees and bears among others.

elephant topiarybutterfly topiarybee topiarysick bear topiary
And this one-I have no idea what animal it is supposed to be: deer? short-necked giraffe?
generic animal topiary

Then many of the rides are based on popular local food crops: strawberries, mushrooms, apples, garlic, artichokes. All pretty cute.

strawberry ride
mushroom swingapple ridespinning artichokes
spinning garlic
At one point while I was watching the garlic spin I noticed how they had managed to make the air smell like garlic. I looked down and saw that I had been stepping on the variegated "Society Garlic" plant. Heavily planted, so the area around the ride reeked of garlic. Pretty clever.
society garlic

All the grounds were well-planted. They used interesting plants in appropriate ways.

planting combolychnis sweeptree combonice trunk

And then much to my amusement, as we were leaving I noticed the entire front was planted with variegated Liriodendron, one of the rarieties I saw on the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour. The same tree that I thought to be so rare since I'd never heard of it before. I guess it is making its way around in the trade. Nice trees all around.

variegated liriodendron
variegated liriodendron flower


  1. This looks like a crazy place - in a good way. I am not into plant torture, but can appreciate the work that goes into it. The garlic spinners must be the only ones in the world. We got in some of the var. Liriodendron from Monrovia labled 'Majestic Beauty' and in our heat it is only variegated for the first two months before become more solidly green.

  2. "patience, creativity and a dash of crazy," all desirable whether you're a mom or someone with a vision like Mr. Erlandson. Hopefully there were plenty of artichokes to eat too.

  3. A plant-themed amusement park? Fascinating! Must tweet about your post.

  4. I haven't been there in years. It looks better than I remember. But then I'm more interested in plants now than I was back then. Have you seen the topiaries in the documentary A Man Named Pearl?

  5. Aw, I grew up with those trees! They used to be in a little park called 'Santa's Village' at the summit of highway 17 between los gatos and santa cruz. Was awfully glad they found a good home. Thanks for the pictures!

  6. Those trees are incredible! I thought of Pearl Fryar and his topiaries, too. You can see pictures of his garden at if you haven't seen them. I didn't know about variegated liriodendron either. It is beautiful!

  7. I loved reading this post and seeing your photos.
    Such a wonderful place.
    Thanks for the tour !!

  8. Les- that must be the Liriodendron. I'll have to check back on the trees to see if they look more green in the summer.
    Chuck/Darcia- I need to read up about Mr. Pearl more. He sounds interesting.
    Laura- that is so cool you knew the trees from a different spot. I'm glad they've been preserved for more kiddos to enjoy.
    Michelle and all- Thanks for your comments!


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