• Imaginary Worlds brings dragon, mermaid to Botanical Garden

    By: Nelson Hicks

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - A dragon, woolly mammoth, camels and Pegasus all now call Atlanta home.

    Imaginary Worlds returns to the Atlanta Botanical Garden with a menagerie of all-new giant living plant sculptures that take visitors on a fantasy journey.

    only this time they’re even bigger. (Photo by Nelson Hicks/wsbtv.com)

    Back by popular demand, the exhibition, presented May 5 – October 28, recaptures the magic of the original blockbuster show from 2013 and 2014 with larger-than-life, topiary-like whimsical sculptures – only this time they’re even bigger. And most of them have never been seen before.

    “Imaginary Worlds was just so incredibly popular with our guests that we just had to bring it back – but with an all-new twist,” said Mary Pat Matheson, the garden’s president & CEO.

    “Imaginary Worlds was just so incredibly popular with our guests that we just had to bring it back – but with an all-new twist,” said Mary Pat Matheson, the garden’s president & CEO. (Photo by Nelson Hicks/wsbtv.com)

    Imaginary Worlds will wow visitors with a storybook-themed world of sculptures, both indoors and out – most custom made for the Garden by the exhibition’s creators, International Mosaiculture of Montreal. The nonprofit group has staged exhibitions of its work around the world, and five years ago the garden presented the first major exhibition of its kind in the United States.

    The empty frames were shipped to Atlanta in January, and the Garden’s horticulturists began covering them with a mesh fabric and stuffing them with soil. Then the planting commenced - inserting more than 100,000 plants, primarily annuals, one by one.

    This time, the sculptures – steel forms covered in soil-and-sphagnum moss and planted with thousands of meticulously groomed plants – will be staged in 14 installations. At the Midtown garden, look for a giant phoenix looming over the Alston Overlook, a mermaid lounging beside Howell Fountain, a massive dragon and sleeping princess near the Great Lawn, a prancing peacock inside the Fuqua Orchid Center and three towering camels lumbering through the Skyline Garden, to name a few. At the Gainesville garden, the landscape will be adorned with a variety of characters, including a friendly ogre, panda ears and frolicking frogs.

    This all-new cast of characters joins the gardens’ permanent sculptures, Earth goddess, shaggy dog and frogs, which are legacies from the original exhibition.

    Imaginary Worlds will wow visitors with a storybook-themed world of sculptures, both indoors and out – most custom made for the Garden by the exhibition’s creators, International Mosaiculture of Montreal. (Photo by Nelson Hicks/wsbtv.com)

    “In addition to featuring all of the new characters, this exhibition is unique in that the sculptures are extremely large, much more so than the ones in the original show, and our own team of horticulturists will be planting them," Matheson said,

    The process for creating the sculptures takes nearly half a year. It began last fall when conceptual drawings for the pieces were developed in Montreal, metal frames were fabricated, and plant palettes were chosen. The empty frames were shipped to Atlanta in January, and the Garden’s horticulturists began covering them with a mesh fabric and stuffing them with soil. Then the planting commenced - inserting more than 100,000 plants, primarily annuals, one by one.

    Here are some more photos from Imaginary Worlds at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

    Because Atlanta’s winters are too cold for the annuals to survive, the sculptures were built in sections that were planted inside a greenhouse just outside the city, then trucked to the Garden in spring for assembling on site. Intricate irrigation systems beneath the surface of the sculptures allow the plants to grow – and the creatures to flourish – in Atlanta’s summer heat.

    "It's a little bit magical I think, especially for the kids," visitor Mallory Wigington told wsbtv.com's Nelson Hicks. "I don't know exactly how they do it, but it's really awesome."

    Throughout the exhibition, guests will be able to also enjoy the sculpture in a whole new light at night – illuminated on Thursday evenings during Cocktails in the Garden.

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