Renata Parker Published 8:25 a.m. ET May 20, 2021 | Updated 8:30 a.m. ET May 20, 2021
From its nature trails, gorgeous gardens, and lakes to a charming Uptown with great dining spots and cute boutiques, there are many reasons to visit beautiful Greenwood, South Carolina. But in June, visitors flock to the Emerald City for the South Carolina Festival of Flowers.
What started 54 years ago as a garden celebration at local George W. Park Seed Company grew into an award-winning festival and a summer tradition.
While there’s a lineup of fun-filled activities and events held throughout the month, it’s the live topiary exhibit that takes the stage and is sure to capture your heart. The festival’s signature attraction made its debut in 2008 with eight topiaries. Today, there are 44 spectacular live plant topiary sculptures in the collection. From the magical mermaid to a life-size safari jeep, each plant sculpture is a unique work of art.
Behind the scenes, a dedicated team of horticulturalists, along with a band of community volunteers and master gardeners, work year-round to create and maintain the topiaries.
“Each topiary starts with a steel metal frame,” says Clint Price, horticulture supervisor for the City of Greenwood and City Public Works and Horticultural Department. “They’re all different sizes and made up of a variety of plants to create different textures and colors. Each year, some of the designs change slightly as a way not only to create interest but also to make use of the available plant materials.”
For example, the eight-foot horse topiary will transform into Baron, the Unicorn for this year’s event.
Price says that all of the sculptures feature three to four different plant varieties and include other plant materials like palm fiber and Spanish moss. About 80 percent of the plants used have been propagated within the Horticultural Department in the City of Greenwood’s greenhouse.
Plugging the topiary with live plant material is an art form in itself. Price says the 14-foot giraffe, Gertie, takes about 200 plus hours to plug with palm fiber, while smaller topiaries, like the 5-ft Birdie, The Golf Ball, may take about 50 or more hours. Then, there are hours upon hours of trimming and pinning by hand until the plants take final shape.
Once complete and prepped for its debut, the topiaries are delivered to its designated spot where it’s connected to an irrigation system to keep the plants thriving through hot summer days. After the festival, the sculptures return to their greenhouse home, and the process starts all over again.
“While it’s a whole lot of work, it’s also a lot of fun,” says Price. “When the topiaries are all placed, we’re always excited to watch people take photos and see their reaction — that’s the reward.”
Each topiary is sponsored by a local business and then adopted by an organization.
“It’s a project that everyone in the community is invested in, and each year it gets better and better,” says Ellesor Holder, a former festival chair who now consults for the event. “From developing the design, welding the frame, to growing the plants, it takes at least a year to create one topiary sculpture – It’s a project of love.”
The topiary exhibit is on display from June 1 through July 12, 2021. For a topiary map and festival information, visit www.scfestivalofflowers.org.
YOU CAN GO
The South Carolina Festival of Flowers features a wide range of events. Here are a few highlights:
Topiaries & Tastings Wine Walk
Sip wine, visit independent shops and stroll among the topiary displays during this evening wine tasting. tickets include a souvenir wine glass and wine walk map.
Home & Garden and Arts & Crafts Show
June 11 – 13
From floral design to home repair, this free weekend event combines the best of two shows into one. browse more than 50 vendors for garden goods, unique garden art, furniture, jewelry, pottery, and more.
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