Weird & Wonderful: The Surreal Garden

The Garden is always exciting this time of year. Spring brings fresh growth and color after a long winter of gray days and muted landscapes. For me, spring comes with an overwhelming feeling of newness and possibility. Beginning with Spring Blooms presented by Wild Birds Unlimited and continuing through the summer, you’ll be delighted to find surreal displays inspired by THE LUME Indianapolis featuring Dalí Alive in The Garden.  

Four horticulturists and the Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse team have been tasked to develop their spring and summer displays based on their own interpretations of Salvador Dalí’s work. Some gravitated towards conceptual themes, while others ran with color, texture, and even literal recreation of elements on display. Whatever sparked their designs, the results are dynamic, interesting, and engaging layer on top of our typical seasonal displays.   

Katie Booth’s interpretation of a piano made from pansies in the Horticulture Society Overlook Garden.

You will already find nods to the illustrious Spanish artist’s work in Spring Blooms presented by Wild Birds Unlimited, from Leah Couglin’s love of the weird, skinny, and twisted in the Formal Garden to Katie Booths’ renditions of dream-like instruments in the Horticulture Society Overlook Garden. Not to mention, the whimsical handmade “Moss-staches” hanging in the Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse. I know I giggled in delight the first time I saw them dancing in the atrium surrounded by lush orchids and fuzzy cacti.  

“Moss-stache" in the Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse.

If I’m being honest, plants are bizarre and surreal in their own ways even without our intention to highlight their beautiful oddity. Modern breeders are bringing out some of the most unnaturally vivid colors, weirdest shapes, and funkiest forms in horticulture and celebrating them. A tulip with wispy, flame-like petals? Fabulous! The velvety, deep, nearly black violas that are on the market? They make this former emo-teen feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.  

As spring warms to summer, the surreal displays will only get better. How could they not when given the bizarre, dream-like fodder that surrealism as an artistic movement offers? Twisted, funky forms of traditional cutting flowers and vegetables will greet you as you approach the Efroymson Family Entrance Pavilion. We’ll have some skinny-legged creatures grazing in a miniature, sky-blue savannah just inside The Garden Entrance. Mustache-shaped orchids (Scaphosepalum spp.) that are too cute to pass by will join the “moss-staches” in the Greenhouse. The front of Lilly House will be a celebration of the pops of sky-blue juxtaposed against earth-tones and possibly a little egg-shaped surprise.  

Beginning in June, these surrealist moments will be complemented with didactics to help connect the threads that weave through the Indianapolis Museum of Art and The Garden. This year’s “inspired by” garden designs will have their own digital self-guided tour as well as panels that will give guests a glimpse at what drew each designer to that piece or concept.  

So, come early and often to experience the surreal in The Garden. Spring Blooms presented by Wild Birds Unlimited is included with general admission and free for members. Plan your visit now. 

Exhibition Credits: 
Spring Blooms is presented by Wild Birds Unlimited. 

Image Credits: 
Horned violet (Viola cornuta Sorbet® Black Delight).

Images courtesy of Newfields.