You see the hedge, he sees something else.

When Tim Bush decided to trim the hedges one recent evening, his routine gardening chore attracted a lot more attention than usual.

Pedestrians slowed down to take photos and ask questions, locals stepped through piles of leaves to thank him, drivers honked their horns and gave thumbs up.

Boucher is used to attracting attention, which he gets every time he gives his two giant, shaggy elephants a haircut — just one example of a collection of residential hedgerows where he has transformed overgrown vegetation into whimsical creations.

His hedge menagerie includes two cats, a squirrel, a hippopotamus and a fish – and an experimental statue of a nude reclining woman – and he hopes to add a giant rabbit this summer.

For years his hedge has delighted residents and baffled those who stumbled across it, becoming something of a local landmark and gaining popularity online. Google Mapsranging from the practical (“Well-maintained”) to the inspirational (“I look at this beautiful hedge and my life is perfect”).

The 70-year-old art-graduate architect has built everything from schools and shops to homes and offices during his long career, but it’s perhaps the mischievous hedges that dot his north London neighbourhood that intrigue him most.

“I realize how much joy they bring,” says Bouchet, who donates the money he earns from pruning hedges to environmental causes. “They enhance the streetscape of cities in a really positive way.”

Hedges have long been used in England to enclose land. From the Bronze Age And its popularity is soaring Agricultural Revolution The idea of ​​shaping a hedge also has deep roots in the 18th century. Topiary GardenFounded in 1694, the church is located in Levens Hall, a manor house about a five-hour drive north of London.

“Hedges provide much-needed shelter for buildings, people, farms and livestock,” said Guy Barter, chief horticulturist at the Royal Horticultural Society, adding that hedges are well suited to the British climate.

These days, a well-kept hedge in a yard symbolizes a certain aspiration — a conscientious homeowner who takes his neighborhood duties seriously, Barter said. But an untrimmed hedge can be a sign of guilt. Cause legal disputes.

But wilder hedges are also becoming more popular, Mr Barter said. “Hedges are very showy and an easy way to show off who you are,” he said.

“It’s like having a white picket fence with a curve down the middle,” says Tim Alden, a friend of Mr Bouchet’s who was inspired to trim his own hedges in east London. Dog Topiary.

He said the unexpected whimsy of the dog-shaped hedge seems to be inspiring messages of joy to his mailbox: “Why not do something playful every once in a while, just because it makes you smile,” he said.

Bush is picky about what he commissions, and only takes on projects close to his home in north London: “It’s great that the projects are concentrated in my area,” he says. (And, of course, he’s aware that his name suits the job well: “Maybe it was my destiny,” he says.)

Bush says it all started about 15 years ago with an overgrown hedge in their front yard. His late wife, Philippa, asked him if he could make a cat sculpture. “I thought a cat might be difficult,” Bush says.

Instead, as he cut the hedge, a different shape came to mind: a train. Then he tried carving the head of a lizard-like monster. His neighbors started asking him to carve different shapes into their own hedges, including a gigantic one that he thought would be perfect for an elephant.

“It really snowballed from there,” he said, and his wife eventually moved the cat into a hedge across the road.

But the journey from plant to artificial animal requires patience, persistence and time. Bouchet starts by pruning the hedge to get it into shape, then he has to let it grow. It can take more than three years for the trimmed hedge to reach its final shape.

“For example, if one ear doesn’t grow in, you may have to wait years for the other ear to grow in,” he says.

Bringing his designs to life is a process more akin to sculpting than gardening: “I can see the whole picture in my head,” he says, “and then I just have to find it.”

Unlike marble, a typical privet hedge will easily lose its shape and needs trimming several times a year to maintain its shape. “People get very upset when the hedge gets hairy,” says Bouchet.

But as they age, they become more difficult to care for, he added. Nature will ultimately decide how long these topiaries will last. Two elephants have died from the wasp fungus, and a vine hedge is dying from hungry grape weevils. “I live in fear that they will be attacked,” Boucher said.

On a recent evening, Boucher enlisted the help of his dogs, Spike and Alden, to transform the trees, which were beginning to resemble more mammoths than elephants. With electric trimmers in hand, they trimmed the trees until piles of leaves covered the ground. Legs, ears and noses became clearly visible.

Simon Massey was one of the local residents who came to show his appreciation. “It’s a really incredible piece of art,” he said, adding that he’d seen all kinds of people coming to see the creatures and take photos.

Abdirashid After passing Alden’s dog-shaped hedge many times, science teacher Obsier noticed it listed as a tourist attraction online. He wrote his own tongue-in-cheek review, calling it a “fantastic piece.”

Obsier said he appreciates the effort that went into the carvings, but feels they add to the charm of the everyday. “Some people question why a hedgerow would be a tourist attraction,” Obsier said. “Why not? Who makes the rules?”


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