The Topiary Park

A recent visit to Columbus, Ohio to give a talk on Gardens of the Hudson Valley was stimulating and fun.  A warm welcome from the Garden Club of the Columbus Museum of Art, an excellent mini-tour of the city’s architectural highlights, and an enjoyable dinner with fellow garden lovers all contributed to a terrific 24 hours.  The special bonus was a visit to Columbus’s unique Topiary Park just a stone's throw from the museum, a topiary rendition of Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte. 


The iconic painting is the great pointillist masterpiece of the Post-Impressionist era, but in the funny way that a work of art is often equally identified by its location, it is also somehow Midwestern, residing as it has for many years at the Art Institute of Chicago. And it has translated astonishingly well to Columbus and to topiary.  The “freeze frame” (static) quality of the original is brilliantly captured by sculptor James T. Mason and his wife, Elaine, who conceived and executed the project for the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department in 1989.  The 54 yew figures, perfectly proportioned though larger than life-size, are grown around steel armatures welded by Mason. A pond evokes the Seine. We saw it on a brisk but clear February afternoon, the Old Deaf School Park was deserted, the shadow cast by the slanting late afternoon sun emphasized the volumes of the figures, and it was great. Thanks to Andrew and Brad for taking us. For more information, visit