Living Animals That Don't Move Photo of Garnet.

Garnet Hunt White
© Copyright 1998 by Garnet Hunt White

"Mr. Ward has a yard full of living, green animals and they don't move." Eddie, my cousin, said.

Did he expect me to believe that? He has never talked so zany before.

"He lives down the street from me and he's retired." Eddie's eyes sparkled as he talked. "We are going to have fun this afternoon in his yard. A yard of thrills."

Was he going to tease the old man? Did he call that fun? I didn't want to go to an old man's yard and worry him.

Eddie and I are fourth graders but in different schools as I live in a neighboring town. Every summer we spend a week with the other.

"Why does he paint them green?" I asked. I thought they must be white rabbits in a cage.

"He doesn't paint them," He supped his root beer. "He grows them."

I couldn't believe he would fib. We both have televisions, computers, internet and e-mail. What has he seen that I've missed?

"You have been watching too much TV?" I said as we entered his home. Would I enjoy this visit? When my parents called about 8:00 tonight, I might ask them to come after me. I couldn't have fun with a 'bag of wind'.

After greeting Aunt Helen and eating her delicious hamburgers, she said, "I called the Ward home and they are expecting you this afternoon. You will love the living animals in his yard."

Was she touched, too?

"Have fun." Aunt Helen told us.

As Eddie and I walked down the street, I saw a long row of hedge over twice as tall as Eddie and I.

"This is where we are going." Eddie said as he opened the iron gate.

"Look!" I yelled and pointed to a tall yew with three spheres of green leaves along the trunk and each larger than a basketball. "That evergreen has been poodled."

"Mr. Wilson calls them "poodles", too." Eddie said.

He pulled me to the side and said, "That walk is for the mail man. We'll go this way."

The boxwood had been trimmed into a maze shape of lines. We followed it to the door.

"Hello, boys." A white haired man with a smiling face greeted us. "I'm glad you came to see my topiary."

Eddie introduced us. After we shook hands, Mr. Wilson began the tour of his ornamental gardening.

I stared! Tongue-tied! Frozen in stunned shock. I looked at a dog larger than I with a puppy beside her made from green living boxwood.

"My father modeled the dog after his dog, Rover." Mr. Ward said. "He began the topiary twenty years ago. "Box wood is slow growing."

My mouth dropped open as I stood in front of a baby elephant.

"This topiary specimen took me four years to complete." Mr. Wilson told us. "Topiary work is horticultural sculpture. Tight shearing is a must. A person must have patience with this work and like it. Since I retired I have time for topiary and I love it."

Mr. Ward had used pruning shears to sculpture the top of a yew into the head of a goat, complete with horns and beard. He said with more plant growth, he would shape the body with the forelegs in the air like the goat was fighting. Then the lower part of the plant would be sheared into the hindquarters.

As we were leaving, Mr. Ward asked us to come back tomorrow. I just stared. Finally, I mumbled a "Thank you, Mr. Ward."

I didn't say a word on the walk home; I was still speechless.

We returned to Aunt Helen's house before I could talk. Then I talked so fast, she had to tell me to slow down.

"I want to go there every day of my vacation." I gulped out the words. "I want to tell my parents about Mr. Ward when they call."

I had forgotten that I had planned to cut my visit short and ask my parents to come for me.

"Aunt Helen. I want to take pictures so I can show the kids at school the topiary garden I visited this summer."

Every day when we visited Mr. Ward, I thought he got younger. He wasn't an old man to me any more.

It was a perfect summer vacation for me. Eddie told the truth about everything. Living, green animals that don't move.

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