Transform your garden with topiary and create some magic

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 15, 2016

By Marissa Creamer

Rowan Public Library

Welcome to Grimloch Lane, where something magical is about to happen. Grimloch Lane is a drab, gray place until a stranger arrives and transforms the trees into an amazing menagerie of animals. “The Night Gardener,” by brothers Terry and Eric Fan, is a children’s picture book that everyone can enjoy.

As folks on Grimloch Lane trudge about with downcast eyes, a man appears carrying a ladder and some tools. He passes the orphanage, where William is drawing an owl in the dirt with a stick. As night falls, the mysterious stranger sets up his ladder beneath a glowing moon and goes to work on a tree outside the orphanage.

The next morning, William is astonished to see that a “wise owl had appeared overnight, as if by magic.” Neighbors gather to marvel at this sight — something unusual is definitely happening on Grimloch Lane. William is filled with excitement as he wonders what will happen next, and this excitement spreads through the town as each morning, a new creature appears in the trees.

Soon, the town is filled with life, as children play outside and neighbors visit and spruce up their homes. The text is sparse, but the illustrations are filled with rich detail. Readers will share in the anticipation as each new topiary creation is revealed and the town is transformed.

Topiary, the art of training and trimming plants, trees or shrubs into ornamental shapes, has a long history. The Romans perfected the art in the first century, and it flourished again in 17th century England. Topiary spread to colonial America, and there is an ongoing revival in the enduring art of topiary today.

You can learn more about this form of living sculpture with “Topiary and the Art of Training Plants,” by David Joyce. This is a complete guide with step-by-step illustrations that will provide a wealth of ideas for topiary in your own garden, from simple geometric shapes to fanciful animals.

In “The Art of Creative Pruning: Inventive Ideas for Training and Shaping Trees and Shrubs” author Jake Hobson draws on both eastern and western topiary styles and teaches a new approach to ornamental pruning. The beautifully illustrated book features hedges inscribed with words, a tree snipped to resemble the toppling tiers of a wedding cake, and boxwoods trimmed into Russian nesting dolls.

Watch a topiary artist at work in the documentary “A Man Named Pearl,” the story of Pearl Fryar of Bishopville, S.C. The self-taught Fryar has created a 3-acre topiary garden out of a former cornfield using mainly cast-off plants from garden centers. His initial goal was to win Yard of the Month from the local garden club. Today, people come from around the world to tour his garden, and he is known internationally in the garden world as well as the art world.

All of these topiary titles are available at Rowan Public Library, where you will find a wonderful collection of materials covering all manner of gardening topics.

Summer reading registration: Begins Monday, all locations. On Your Mark, Get Set, READ! Registered participants may log reading hours June 12 through Aug. 6 to earn prizes, complete weekly book reviews to enter weekly program raffles, and attend special weekly reading programs for their age group. Registration is free and can be done at any library location or online.

Book Bites Book Club: South (China Grove), Tuesday, May 31, 6-7 p.m. Free, open to the public. We discuss a different book each month and serve refreshments loosely related to the theme. “The Book Thief,by Markus Zusak. Need a copy? Call 704-216-7841.

Learn.Act.Grow.: May 23, 5:30-7 p.m., East branch, Rockwell. Learn how to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables by canning, freezing or dehydrating. Local experts will discuss how to choose freezer-friendly foods, how to know when to keep and when to toss, and techniques for preserving. Participants with their own dial-gauge canners may bring the lid for Toi Degree, Rowan County Cooperative Extension Agent, to test for safety.  Register online or by calling 704-216-7734 to ensure your spot.

Chapter Chats Book Club: A weekly book club for teens ages 14-17 primarily for participants with developmental or intellectual disabilities, but all are welcome. Meets at Yosties, 202 N. Main St, Faith, Tuesdays, 4 p.m., through May 24.

Tail Waggin’ Tutors: Children ages 7 to 9 can practice reading skills in a relaxed, dog-friendly atmosphere. Reading Therapy dogs registered through Therapy Dogs International are available for beginning and struggling readers to read aloud to them. Reservations are recommended but not required. Headquarters, Tuesdays, 4:30 p.m. East, Mondays, 3:30 p.m., May 23.

Displays: Headquarters, Washington Day, celebrating Saturday, May 21 and photos from Spring photowalk; South, student art, South Rowan High School; East, kick-off display for Children’s Summer Reading Program – On Your Mark, Get Set, READ!

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second  language.