Lotusland’s topiaries and garden clock are critically important examples of the spectacular features incorporated into American garden estates during the first half of the 20th century. The Topiary Garden’s centerpiece is a working clock, 25 feet in diameter that dates from 1955. Renovated in 1998, the clock face features three different low-growing succulents and copper zodiac signs that were crafted to replicate earlier ones. The clock is bordered by a ring of chalk sticks (Senecio mandraliscae).
Madame Walska referred to the topiaries surrounding the clock as her horticultural zoo. Currently, there are twenty-six topiary figures including a camel, gorilla, giraffe, seal, and chess pieces. As you walk this garden, see how many you can identify. Many of the original topiaries fell into disarray towards the end of Ganna’s life as arthritis made walking the grounds painful, yet she was reluctant to permit even routine tasks such as pruning without her personal supervision. By the time the garden was opened to the public most of the topiary figures that had delighted children since about 1960 were beyond restoration. In 2001, landscape designer Lori Ann David redesigned this garden, replicating many of the original horticultural animals and adding new ones.
Lori Ann David drew on her creative imagination to enliven the topiary creatures with innovative plant combinations, such as the blue-flowering Hardenbergia ‘Happy Wanderer’ used for this peacock’s tail.
Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae):
Some plants naturally resemble animals! This plant gets its name because the shape of its flower looks like a tropical bird in flight, the orange and blue petals appearing as brightly colored wings. A long modified blue petal containing pollen juts out at 45 degrees to the others. It is a perfect place for birds to land as they retrieve nectar found in the base of the flower, getting pollen on their feet and chests.