Claude Ponti - In Nantes Botanic Gardens

The Great Bench
texte et dessin : © Claude Ponti

The Great Bench

Topiary Art
Artwork on loan from St Promular Seafrancy Topiary Museum
The Great Bench is the most extraordinarily brilliant example of topiary art - the art of sculpting plants, hedges and trees into the largest variety of shapes you can think of, in order to decorate parks and gardens.
The St Elizabeth Seafrancy Topiary Art Gallery is home to the Philippa Highbanks collection. Dame Philippa was solitary woman, who dedicated her life to her passion. Her collection is made up of 725 trees, 1287 bushes, 3742 plants, 349 mosses, lichens and mushrooms, every single one of which is a different shape.
Every carving depicts a legendary tale. In this instance, it is the legend of Gaping Cracke, the mysterious giant, who had never once been sighted. The tracks he leaves behind him are all we know of him: 17 footprints in the rock; one large hollow of dejection; one pair of ecru flanel trousers forgotten on a washing-line between two mountains, one Carpathian marble credit card and the Giant Bench, found close to the Farawayhole Cave. We have before us a clear case of imitation.
Surprising as it may seem, the bench is made of four boxtrees, hand-carved by the masterful Philippa Highbanks. To this day, no-one has been able to uncover the true secret of her art. Some have thought that she dabbled in witchcraft, but this is but empty gossip. She had green fingers, especially on her left hand, as she was left-handed.
Photos permitted. Do not feed nor fertilize.