IMAGINARY WORLDS Sculptures On View at Atlanta Botanical Garden, May-October

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IMAGINARY WORLDS Sculptures On View at Atlanta Botanical Garden, May-October

The wonder and magic of Imaginary Worlds, showcasing 28 giant topiary-like sculptures, returns to the Atlanta Botanical Garden this spring, bigger and better than ever with nine new characters joining a cast that sports a brand new look.

Imaginary Worlds: A New Kingdom of Plant Giants, presented May through October, features monumental works of mosaiculture - the centuries-old horticultural art of planting steel forms with thousands of living plants - created by International Mosaiculture of Montreal. Presented for the first time in the United States last summer at the Garden, the blockbuster exhibition Imaginary Worlds: Plants Larger Than Life showcased 19 sculptures, including a pair of towering cobras and a giant bust called Earth Goddess, which now calls the Garden home.

In the new exhibition, joining those sculptures, which have been "re-imagined" with new plantings and installed in different garden areas, are four frolicking frogs, three gallivanting gorillas and a pair of ogling orangutans as the newest denizens of the enchanted gardens.

"This exhibition will be the largest ever presented in the United States and promises to be another 'wildly' successful one," said Mary Pat Matheson, the Garden's president and CEO.

The four giant frogs will find themselves at home by the native Conservation Bog. Last summer, these sculptures, representing the Garden's amphibian conservation program, were the Garden's contribution to Mosaiculture Internationale's exposition in Montreal, where they garnered an international environmental award. Each frog's design is inspired by an endangered species in the Garden's collection.

The other new sculptures were part of a Montreal display last summer that celebrated American wildlife.

The family of three life-sized gorillas take residence in Storza Woods among the towering tree trunks. Black mondo grass gives the primates their lush, glossy coats.

The Perennial Garden will host the orangutans, resplendent in gloriously shaggy coats of orange-brown sedges. One ape energetically "hangs" from a spectacular Japanese Snowbell Tree, while its companion sits sedately within a flowering tapestry of summer color that complements their fur.

The monumental sculptures range up to 25 feet tall and 20 feet wide and contain nearly 200,000 plants. The largest, the 25-foot-tall Earth Goddess, is stuffed with 40,000 annuals and has become a permanent living sculpture in the Garden's collection.

Each sculpture is a living, sophisticated evolution of the traditional "stuffed topiary" technique. Thousands of meticulously groomed plants (mostly annuals) are planted into soil-and-sphagnum moss filled netting covering the steel forms - hidden works of artisanship themselves - to carpet the skeletons in colorful patterns. Intricate irrigation systems beneath the surface of the sculptures allow the plants to grow - and the creatures to flourish - in Atlanta's summer heat.

With the sculptures returning from 2013, part of the adventure for visitors will be locating their personal favorites and seeing how they have changed:

  • Inspired by a certain popular world of ponies, the unicorn sheds last year's silvery hair and bursts forth in a glorious pink coat to stand guard over the Rock Garden.
  • Earth Goddess looses her icy coiffure from Garden Lights and reblooms in cascading waves of vibrant floral tresses.
  • Just outside the Hardin Visitor Center, the adorable shaggy dog sheepishly looks over its shoulder to welcome guests to this fantastic realm.
  • The giant cobras shed their winter candy-cane skin from Garden Lights to reveal fresh jewel-like tones.
  • The polychromatic butterflies seek nectar within the Edible Garden Orchard as they hover above the grasses and flowers.
  • The lively rabbits, having hopped from the Orchard and followed the trail of the unicorn, frolic near the Succulent and Cactus Garden.
  • The friendly ogre, dancing fish and three whimsical berries all return to their homes throughout the Garden.

On Thursdays from May through September, visitors may explore Imaginary Worlds at night, experiencing the sculptures in a whole new light, during Cocktails in the Garden. The event, held from 6 -10 p.m., features cash bars, a live deejay and chef demonstrations.

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