Horticultural Artists Grow Fantastical Scenes at the Montréal Botanical Garden

Take a peek at some of the living artwork entered in an international competition in Quebec this summer

The city of Shanghai
The city of Shanghai presents A True Story (above), an impressive work of mosaïculture, at Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal 2013. © Guy Boily

Perhaps you have heard of topiary, the decorative pruning of shrubs into animals and other shapes. But, what about mosaïculture?

The term was new to me when I read the definition that organizers prescribe to at Mosaïcultures Internationales, a competition staged every three years at a park or municipal garden somewhere in the world. “Mosaïculture,” says the competition’s website, “is a refined horticultural art that involves creating and mounting living artworks made primarily from plants with colourful foliage (generally annuals, and occasionally perennials).”

The process works a bit like this. To start, horticultural artists build metal frames for their sculptures. They cover the frames with soil netting and then plant seeds of different flora in that soil, much like a ceramicist lays tiles in a mosaic. The task draws on an artist’s skills in a variety of different areas, notes Mosaïcultures Internationales—”on sculpture for its structure and volume, on painting for its palette, and on horticulture in its use of plants in a living, constantly changing environment.” Grown in greenhouses during the spring months, the artworks, when fully grown, are installed outdoors, in parks and gardens.

This summer, about 50 sculptures and reliefs, consisting of some 22,000 species, dot a 1.3-mile path through the Montréal Botanical Garden, site of Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal 2013. More than 200 horticultural artists from 20 countries submitted work that represents their cultures and fits with the “Land of Hope” theme, meant to showcase Earth’s biodiversity; they are vying for a jury-selected Grand Honorary Award and a People’s Choice Award. Here are a few for you to enjoy:

In Mother Earth
In Mother Earth, a Canadian work presented at Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal, a female figure appears to rise from the ground. Horses, like the one shown here, are in a prairie nearby. © Guy Boily
The Man Who Planted Trees
In the background of this photograph of The Man Who Planted Trees, also a Canadian work, one can see Elzéard Bouffier, a shepherd, planting an oak. In the foreground is a leafy sheep. © Guy Boily
This entry from Beijing
This entry from Beijing, called Planting Plane Trees to Attract the Phoenix, is inspired by an ancient Chinese legend of the same title. The phoenix’s plumage is constructed from flowering begonias. © Guy Boily
Uganda entered Gorillas at Risk
Uganda entered Gorillas at Risk!, a tribute to the only population of mountain gorillas in the world, which lives in the Virunga Mountains in southwest Uganda. The World Wildlife Federation reports that there are just 800 or fewer gorillas still living. © Guy Boily
Lemurs, like the ring-tailed ones shown here, are native to Madagascar. The island country submitted this sculpture, titled All in a Row. © Guy Boily
Small Clownfish and Anemone
Small Clownfish and Anemone, a work entered by Japan’s Okinawa National Park, features two species that coexist in the reefs off of the island of Okinawa. © Guy Boily
Gypsy or Gaïa?
In 2000, archaeologists unearthed a 1,500-year-old mosaic, dubbed the “Gypsy Girl,” in the ruins of Zeugma in the Gaziantep province of Turkey. Horticultural artists recreate the famous countenance in this floral mosaic, Gypsy or Gaïa? entered by Gaziantep. © Guy Boily
Bornean and Sumatran orangs
Hands Up!, a work presented by Borneo, Malaysia, features life-like orangutans made from thick grass. The island is home to two species, Bornean and Sumatran orangs. © Guy Boily

Mosaïcultures Internationales Montréal 2013 – Land of Hope is on display at the Montréal Botanical Garden through September 29, 2013.

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