Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Upside Down Trees at Glacier Gardens in Alaska

Walk into the 50-acre Glacier Gardens in Alaska and you’ll behold a strange sight. Dozens of hemlock and spruce trees with their tops driven into the ground, and roots hanging in the air. Unlike the Baobab, the upside-down trees at Glacier Gardens are not natural but the result of landscaping by Steve and Cindy Bowhay, the owners of Glacier Garden.

The upside-down trees known as “Flower Towers” are local Sitka spruce and Western hemlock, felled by a landslide in 1984 that uprooted most of the mountain's vegetation. Steve collected the felled trees, flipped them over, replanted, and turned them into natural flower pots. The tops are buried several feet in the ground, while the roots become a nest for arrangements of brightly colored begonias, fuchsias, and petunias.

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The 1984 landslide that swept the trees also demolished much of the face of Thunder Mountain. A decade later, the Bowhays purchased six acres of land and began reclamation. Steve designed a hydro-electricity plant to power greenhouses and settling ponds were created to slow erosion. It was during the landscaping that the vision of a rainforest with waterfalls and panoramic views of Juneau began to emerge. They ended up acquiring an additional 44.5 acres and enlarged their landscaping plan to a public garden.

During the rehabilitation process, Steve accidentally damaged a landscaping machine. In a fit of frustration, he used the machine to pick up a large fallen tree stump and slam it upside down into the soft mud. It only took moments before he had a vision of how to recycle the trees cleared from the development of the property.

Today, the park is scattered with just about a hundred upside-down trees, all of which are lined with netting, moss, and topped with nearly 75-100 annual flower plants.

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Sources: GardenDesign, Neatorama, Atlas Obscura

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