Children's Garden (now the Backyard Bird Habitat)
Erica's Original Notes: The Children's Garden was opened in 1979 by an MLA/ Cabinet Minister. The bronze fountain, 'Boy with Dolphin', is a replica of one in Palacio Vecchio, Rome, by Andrea del Verocchio, 1435-1488.
The Children's Garden has several topiaries. Topiary is like painting pictures with plants, a source of horticultural merriment! Living statues are clipped, rather like going to the hairdresser. Topiary is an ancient art practiced by the Greeks and Romans. The term 'topiary' comes from the Latin word for ornamental gardening.
It dates to Roman times but was not practiced much after the fall of Rome until the 16th century. It fell out of fashion in the 18th century with the rise of naturalistic gardens but came back again in Victorian times. Well-known topiary work in Britain can be found at Levens Hall, Cumbria; Packwood House, Warwickshire; Hever Castle, Kent; Dartington Hall, Devon; Great Dixter (Christopher Lloyd's garden in East Sussex); Elvaston Castle, Derbyshire; Compton Wynyates, Warwickshire; and Hidcote Manor, Gloustershire.
Buxus is used in topiary as well as yew. Its name comes from the Greek word 'pyxos', meaning 'unguent box' and thence to the Latin 'buxus', meaning 'box'. Boxwood is also associated with witchcraft and was planted by the entrance of a house to ward off evil spirits.
Updates 2013 (MG):
At the west end of the Children’s Garden, the espalier fence has gone. The fence had deteriorated, the apples had canker, and they no longer related to the theme of the Children’s Garden which was originally a whimsical formal look with topiary and carpet bedding, very time-consuming to maintain. A few years ago, one bed was changed to grow seasonal tropical bedding and is now an exotic summer display bed. The espalier blocked access to this bed, and there are now espaliers in the Vegetable Garden, so this one was no longer needed.
In traditional topiary, a shrub was pruned into a shape. However, in the US, Walt Disney invented the modern form of topiary for his amusement parks. He designed wire frames in different shapes, then stuffed plants into the shape, rather than clipping to a specific form.