Flamazing Flamingos. Try saying that ten times fast. From June 19 through October, Norfolk Botanical Gardens is proudly displaying seventy gorgeous topiary flamingos throughout the grounds. According to their website, NBG offered the opportunity to name and “adopt” pink flamingo topiaries the week before Valentine’s Day. They sold out within six days! As part of their Education Department, NBG will develop educational interpretive signage for Garden visitors to learn about the art of topiaries and the care that is required to maintain their beauty. In addition, topiary classes will be offered during this time period so visitors can learn how to grow and maintain their own beautiful display.
In an article written on their website, “a topiary is defined as the art or practice of clipping shrubs or trees into ornamental shapes. The flamingo topiary frames are built from welded tubular steel and will have six different poses and dimensions.” As for the decorative aspect of it, “each frame will be filled with pink begonias and all sculpted faces will be repainted for optimal display. Each frame will contain around 80 plants and will be planted upon arrival at the Garden.” Finally, the article mentioned the intensive upkeep that is involved in making sure these creations last. It includes “hand watering daily, fertilizing once a week, trimming every 3 – 4 weeks and checking the moss on each topiary on a weekly basis.”
When you first drive up the Gardens, a welcoming sign greets you at the front gate. Tickets are purchased online and scanned directly from your car to limit in person contact. Making your way through the winding pathway, you are greeted with a canopy of trees overhead and a lake glistening in the distance. It’s the perfect end of summer beginning of fall day. The parking lot is filled with families with eager young children, couples in love, groups of friends, and the elderly leisurely walking towards the main building.
You feel yourself getting excited as you see the signs advertising that the flamingoes are here. You grab a map of the garden and walk through the welcome building in a breeze. The first thing you spot are the bicentennial rose gardens and the winding canals that link all sixteen display gardens together. People are socially distant and wearing masks, families are riding their bikes and there’s a sense of serenity and peace in the air. There’s so much to see and so many paths to pick. You decide to pick one randomly and let your feet guide you. The path you follow takes you through the delicate rose gardens and down a gravel path that runs parallel to a canal. If you look closely in the water, you can see turtles swimming about and sunbathing. Flamingos can be spotted along the way and you smile to yourself.
A little further down and you approach the NATO tower. Normally open as an observation and wildlife watching deck, it’s the lawn that is in front of it that captures your attention. The lawn, lined with pink flowering trees, has over twenty flamingo topiaries all positioned differently. You noticed that they each have names such as “Cleo,” who was adopted by a Dawn Matheson. There’s barely anyone else there so you seize the opportunity to take a few photos and live in the moment.
After wrapping up at the tower, you continue your stroll through the gardens. You’re glad that you decided to wear comfortable shoes as you walk deeper into a more secluded area with little ponds. Breaking free from the forest, you end up on a path leading you to a vegetable garden. There are little pepper plants and vines crisscrossing and cascading down from archways. A giant zucchini dangles from one. After spending some time there, you leave the vegetable garden and continue on your way. You realize that your walk is slowly coming to an end.
Before you reach the parking lot, however, a field of yellow, pink and orange wildflowers blooms in your line of vision. You pause for a moment to drink in the sights and sounds of this scene. The sun is setting as you head to the parking lot and start the journey home. It was a good day, a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.