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Atlanta road trip for Imaginary Worlds

CK
This whimsical unicorn was undeterred by visitors stopping to take a look.

Canoe Kids
By Melissa Lowrie
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Photos by Melissa Lowrie

  MelissaLowrie
  Melissa Lowrie

Only a handful of needs can pull me out of my mountain oasis and into the mass of humanity that is Atlanta. The draw this time—huge stuffed topiaries—was interesting enough.

After reading and hearing about the current exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, we decided to head south. Imaginary Worlds: Plants Larger Than Life, certainly lived up to our high expectations.

The joint project between the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the International Mosaiculture of Montreal organization has staged a show on the grounds featuring 19 sculptures made of live plants.

The exhibition, running through October, contains more than 120,000 plants formed into dancing fish, a unicorn, butterflies, berries, an ogre, bunnies, a dog, cobras and a massive earth goddess. Sculptures both large and small are dotted throughout the garden making a lovely walking tour through the property.

CK
In all her glory, the Earth Goddess beckons visitors from the Cascades Garden. Photo by Anita Rosen

An easy walk for those pushing strollers or walking with older visitors, the paths are easy to maneuver and there are plenty of benches to take a break if needed.

  abgarden

Even with my limited knowledge of plants and horticulture in general, I was able to surmise how huge of an undertaking these living exhibits were to create. The earth goddess, perched at the Cascades Garden, is 25-feet-tall and weighs nearly 29 tons.

 

 The process began in Canada with welders creating a framework of steel for each figure. Out of the welding studio and into a greenhouse, the frames were then stuffed and fitted with an internal irrigation system.

Thousands of plants of varying colors and textures were then plugged into the framework. It took several months for the growth to produce the colors and textures needed for the sculptures to take shape.

Shipping the sculptures from the cool climate of Canada to the southern U.S. was no small feat. The living cargo was loaded onto 15 tractor-trailers, with heat for the first leg and air conditioning for the second, then staggered over a three-week travel period to help the plants acclimate to their new Georgia home.

It took five days to install the 23 pieces at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The largest and most elaborate, Earth Goddess, required weeks of foundation, electrical and irrigation preparation. In the Fuqua Orchid Center, there is a time-lapse video of the installation and details of the process. It was interesting for the kids (and adults) to see the amount of effort needed to create these sculptures.

After checking out the sculptures (groups receive a map with locations when paying admission) and the “how-they-did-it” exhibit, the orchids are a must-see. As you wind through the path inside, there are orchid specimens from around the world in all shapes, sizes and colors. Keep your eyes open, because they are everywhere.    

CK
In the lobby of the Fuqua Orchid Center, there is a display explaining how the Imaginary Worlds exhibition was created.

After spotting quail chicks in the next exhibit, you’ll know to look because of the handy sign posted on the door, be sure to find the tree frogs. There are about five tree frog habitats and the kids really enjoyed looking for them.

  CK
  These Canoe Kids loved hunting for tree frogs.

Beyond the Imaginary Worlds exhibition, there was plenty to see for kids of all ages at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, including a children’s garden for the younger set.

It took our group a couple of hours to go through and see all we wanted to see. We visited on a Friday and were exiting by lunchtime when the crowds were growing. I’d imagine the weekends would be quite busy.

Not a cheap outing, for two adults and two children we paid $63.80, then paid for parking on the way out. Children under 3 are free, but no discounts for seniors. There is a cafe, however we brought our own snacks (as did every other mom-with-kids I saw). The gift shop was beautiful, but it made me a little nervous as there were some extremely expensive items for sale that were within reach of your average curious third-grader.

The garden is open Tuesday through Sunday at 9 a.m. and is easy to find; check the website for additional information and directions (atlantabotanicalgarden.org). The Canoe Kids thought this outing was “cool” and enjoyed the field trip to the city. We’d highly recommend for kids of all ages.

If you can’t make it to Atlanta, take your Canoe Kids on another adventure. Summer is fleeting, so get out there and enjoy it.

CK
Seeing the orchids in the Fuqua Orchid Center are worth the trip to Atlanta.

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