The Ladew Topiary Gardens of Monkton, Maryland boast the title of “the most outstanding topiary garden in America” as named by the Garden Club of America. I now see why. This past Saturday, I toured the Ladew Gardens as part of its second annual garden festival, and came away a very big fan.
Any fine collection of art starts with a passionate collector and a talented artist. Harvey S. Ladew (1887-1976) was both. He loved flowers and topiaries, and he put his love to work in the 22 acres of gardens he created from a 250-acre farm he bought in Maryland in 1929. Ladew discovered the art of topiaries (trimming and training shrubs or trees into unnatural ornamental shapes) during his many travels to Europe with his parents, and later as a young adult and Army officer during World War I.
A self-taught gardener, Ladew created two long cross axes on his Maryland property, which provide for spectacular vistas in each direction. Off of the axes are 15 garden “rooms,” each devoted to a single color, plant, or theme. Ladew is considered “one of the first Americans to create garden rooms on this side of the Atlantic,” according to the garden’s brochure. Many of the garden rooms feature elaborate topiaries of animals in sculpted settings.
One of the most impressive areas of Ladew Gardens is the “Great Bowl.” Several dozen swan topiaries swim atop a sea of large, billowy yew shrubs that border a two-acre circular lawn, which gently slopes toward a round pool in the center.
Harvey Ladew was influenced by the work of landscape and topiary artists from England and Italy. How many botantical artists and gardeners have been influenced by Harvey Ladew over the last 70-80 years? Hundreds I am sure, who in turn have most likely influenced thousands more.
The ingredients for creativity and innovation are fairly simple, yet get surprisingly little attention from corporate executives and managers. Provide your employees with the opportunity to nurture their passion and talents, expose them to other successful creators and innovators, and serve up a culture that welcomes and incents creativity and risk-taking.
Spend time and energy on these fundamental elements for innovation, and you’ll soon find your company will be on its way to some supernatural performance.