Home News You see the hedge. He sees something else.

You see the hedge. He sees something else.


On a recent evening, Tim Bushe attracted more attention than usual for a routine gardening task when he decided to trim some hedges.

Pedestrians slowed to take photos and ask questions. Neighbors stepped over piles of fallen leaves to thank him. A driver honked and gave a thumbs-up.

Mr Bush is used to the attention. Every time he gives a haircut to two giant, furry elephants, he gets attention. They are just one of a group of hedges on a residential street that Mr Bush has transformed from overgrown vegetation to works of whimsy.

His hedge menagerie includes two cats, a squirrel, a hippopotamus and a fish. He also has a naked woman lying down as an experimental animal. He hopes to have a large rabbit join them this summer.

For years, his hedges have delighted residents and baffled anyone who stumbles upon them. Google Mapranging from the serious (“well maintained”) to the enthusiastic (“My life is now complete after seeing this beautiful hedge.”).

Mr Bush, 70, an art college graduate and architect, has built everything from schools and shops to homes and offices during his long career, but his most intriguing works may be his playful hedges that dot north London.

“I know how much joy they bring,” said Mr. Bush, who donates his hedge trimmings to environmental causes. “They enhance the city streetscape in a very positive way.”

Hedges have a long history in the UK as a way of enclosing land. As early as the Bronze Age and in Agricultural Revolution in the 18th century. And the idea of ​​shaping these hedges has deep roots: the oldest Manicured gardensFounded in 1694, it is located at Levens Hall, an estate about five hours north of London.

Guy Butt, chief horticulturist at the Royal Horticultural Society, said: “Hedgerows provide much-needed shelter for buildings, people, farms and livestock,” adding that hedgerows thrive in the British climate.

Mr. Butt said that these days, a neatly manicured garden hedge has become a symbol of aspiration: a homeowner who takes his neighborhood obligations seriously. However, a bad fence is considered so excessive that Leading to legal disputes.

But Mr Butt said bolder hedges were also becoming more popular. “Hedges are very showy and an easily noticed way to show off your personality,” he said.

“It’s a bit like when you have a white picket fence and something curls up in the middle,” said Bush’s friend Tim Alden, who was inspired to trim his hedge in east London into the same pattern. A dog’s trim.

He said the quirkiness of the dog-shaped hedge seemed to inspire happy messages in his mailbox. “Why not do something fun once in a while,” he said, “for no other reason than to make us happy?”

Mr. Bush is choosy about his commissions, taking only projects close to his home in north London. “I love that there are so many of them around me,” he said. (Yes, he knows his own name would be a better fit for the job. “Maybe it’s my destiny,” he said.)

Mr Bush said it all started about 15 years ago when he had an overgrown hedge in his front yard and his late wife Philippa asked him if he could carve a cat for her. “I thought carving a cat might be a little tricky,” he said.

Instead, as he carved into the hedges, another shape came to his mind: a train. After that, he tried carving the head of a lizard-like monster. Neighbors began asking him to carve their hedges into shapes, too, including a giant set of hedges that he thought would be perfect for carving into an elephant.

“It just snowballed from there,” he said. His wife eventually took her cat into a hedge across the road.

But the transition from plant to artificial animal requires patience, persistence and plenty of time. Mr. Bush shapes the hedge from the initial pruning. Then, it has to grow. It can take three years or more for a pruned hedge to take its final shape.

“For example, I might only have one ear left and have to wait years for the other to grow,” he said.

The process of bringing his designs to life is more like sculpting than gardening. “I can picture the whole process in my head,” he says. “It’s just a matter of finding it.”

Unlike marble, ordinary privet hedges quickly outgrow their proper shape: they need to be pruned a few times a year to keep them in shape. “People get really annoyed when they get all hairy,” Mr Bush said.

But, he added, the trees become harder to maintain as they age. Mother nature is the ultimate dictator of how long the pruned trees will survive. Two elephants have died from honey fungus, and a dog fence has gone bald from some hungry weevils. “I live in fear that they will be attacked,” Mr Bush said.

On a recent evening, Mr. Bush asked his dogs, Spike and Mr. Alden, to transform the tree, which looks more like a mammoth than an elephant. With electric loppers in hand, they carved away, and the leaves piled on the ground. The tree’s legs, trunk and stem were sharpened.

Simon Massey was one of the neighbors who came to express his appreciation. “It’s a really wonderful piece of art,” he said, adding that he has seen all kinds of people come to the neighborhood to see and photograph the creatures.

Abdulrashid Mr Aubusier, a science teacher who had walked past Mr Alden’s dog-shaped fence several times before discovering it was listed as a tourist attraction online, wrote a witty review himself, calling it “an inspiring piece of work”.

Aubusier said he admired the effort the sculptor put into the sculpture. But he also saw the funny side of ordinary life, which became alluring. “Some people wonder, why is the hedge a tourist attraction?” Aubusier said. “Why not? Who makes the rules?”

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