Article & photo by: DAMIAN DOMINGUEZ firstname.lastname@example.org
Breathing new life into something old isn’t an easy task, but the city horticulture crews have managed to revive an old topiary in a new form.
The annual S.C. Festival of Flowers brings blooming topiaries to Uptown: A mermaid, the Clemson tiger and USC gamecock, giraffes, a Jeep — all made of layered moss with flowers growing into them. The metal frames house irrigation tubing that keeps it all watered.
In 2014, Fujifilm stopped sponsoring a camera topiary that was featured annually.
“It just sat in different places behind the greenhouse, just moving it out of our way,” said city horticulturalist Jimmy McInville. “Last year, I said if nobody is going to do anything with this and just let it rust, can I play with it?”
McInville’s initial goal was to see if it could be turned into a living photo booth. He wanted to see if Fuji could help create a system by which people could go up to the topiary, have a picture taken of them and have it printed there at the topiary.
While he was refining his idea, horticulture crews broke down the metal frame of the camera topiary. Nearly every piece of the original topiary went into this new one, which McInville said ended up being an archway. Across the top are the words “Gateway to Greenwood.” He hopes it will serve as a statement piece for guests during the festival and makes a great spot for people to take photos.
To craft the new metal frame for this archway, city Shop Superintendent Mike Hodge had to weld the new frame together from the former camera topiary’s reclaimed metal. Hodge took on the task while adjusting to his new job managing the city shop.
“Just another project we had to take on,” Hodge said. “Breaking down the skeleton wasn’t bad. ... We had to make a rigid frame to hold all of this because it is tall and heavy.”
It took about three weeks, but he got the frame back to McInville and Horticulture Supervisor Diana Fetters. The crew started recycling the camera topiary in September and had their new frame in January.
“I’m happy with it, and I think people are going to see what we were going for,” McInville said.
He was working to cover its surface in flowers Monday morning. The metal frame is filled with moss, held in place with netting while the horticulture crew plants small “plugs” of flowers into the moss. They take root and grow over the frame, giving it the color and lush texture that makes Uptown’s topiaries the stunning displays they are.
This archway will be covered in different varieties of petunias, with ficus lining the inside of the archway and silver ponyfoot hanging from the top like a curtain. The topiary also features potato plants growing from the top in plumes and tufts of red rooster sedge.
“Lots of different colors and lots of different petunias,” McInville said.
Once this topiary is finished and has its debut in June’s 55th Festival of Flowers, McInville said he’s already got his eyes on another retired topiary, the swan.
“Maybe not this year or 2023, but she’ll come back better than ever,” Fetters said.
This year’s festival marks 15 years of topiaries in Uptown. Greenwood Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Barbara Ann Heegan said it’s impressive to see how far the topiaries have come, from being hand-watered at first to their current built-in irrigation systems.
The topiaries will be on display starting in June, though the festival’s main weekend starts June 10. Heegan said organizers are partnering with the Clemson extension campus staff to host a garden symposium June 10, featuring Lakelands Master Gardeners, educational presentations and a keynote speaker, Helen Yoest, executive director of Bee Better Naturally.
“I think that Greenwood is the only place here in South Carolina where you can find this wide selection of living topiaries up all month long like that,” Heegan said. “I think the talent and care these horticulturalists put into the topiaries is just amazing.”
The festival will also feature garden tours, an arts and crafts festival in Uptown, Kidfest, a 5K run and other events and attractions for people of all ages. The festival and its centerpiece topiaries bring in visitors who drive hours to see these flowers, and Heegan said she was excited to see Uptown bloom again.
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