Tag Archives: Mosaiculture International

Mosaiculture: a different kind of art

September 16th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

Mosaiculture is the name given to three dimensional sculptures made of plants. This summer, the Montreal Botanical Garden played host to dozens of creations from around the world, all illustrating the theme, Land of Hope.

I postponed visiting the show until a few weeks ago, thinking I wouldn’t like it. But I did. I was captured by the skill, the scale and the imagination.

And by the humour. Who couldn’t smile seeing these lemurs, parading along the walkway, tails held high?

These ring-tailed lemurs are from Madagascar, an island rich in biodiversity.

Or by the big frog that came soon after?

A frog emerging from a lily pond represents the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Humour abounded, whether in the appropriately themed garden utensils at the entrance to the botanical garden itself,

A watering can and trowel greet visitors at the entrance to the Montreal Botanical Garden.

or in the over-sized sun hat outside the washrooms.


Colourful plants sit outside even more colourful washrooms.
Don’t you love those over-sized flower pots?

Understandably, considering the theme, animals played a big role. Endangered gorillas from Uganda…

Mountain gorillas live only in the Virunga Mountains of Uganda,
Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

join a clown fish and anemones from Okinawa. Together with pandas, chimpanzees, water buffalo and a variety of insects and frogs, these animals suggest a world in need of protection.


One of the largest pieces in the show is the Bird Tree, showing some 56 endangered species of birds. The engineering required for this construction is as impressive as the creation itself. Sixteen meters tall and eighteen meters wide, the tree weighs 100 metric tonnes.


Close-ups of the birds show the extraordinary attention to detail.

And imagine the up-keep! The show opened in June, yet when I saw it in September it looked as fresh as if it had opened the day before. Maintenance was visible everywhere, as plants were replaced…


or kept under control.


The sheer size of some pieces was overwhelming. Check out this Earth Mother, emblematic of the show as a whole. The tiny man atop the ladder gives a sense of scale.


This mother was huge. And with an admirable complexion.

Is that smooth face made of santolina?

As large was this piece from Shanghai, telling the story of a girl who gave her life to save a red-crowned crane.


I love the decoration in her hair:
echeveria and a wispy grass.

The variety of plants used in mosaiculture has expanded considerably in the last dozen years or so. More than 90 plants are listed in the catalogue, including 33 varieties of alternantheras. Even so, by the end of the 2.2 kilometer trail, I was getting tired of seeing the same plants.

Perhaps that is why my two favourite pieces in the show were not mosaiculture, strictly speaking. This moose is part of an exhibit made by the city of Val d’Or, in northern Quebec. Using mosses, recycled materials and boreal lichen, a species that is sensitive to air pollution, the assembled animals present the fauna and flora of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region in an appealingly natural way.


Mosses, bark and lichen make a mighty moose.

The same was true for this piece created by the Welsh artist Sally Matthews. I don’t know why I responded so positively to the boars racing towards me, but I did. As did many people I’ve spoken to.


Created from dead materials the artist found on site, the boars embody ferocity and fragility simultaneously. For me, they were the highlight of the show.


Mosaiculture Internationales is billed as a tribute to the beauty and diversity of life on earth. It is a larger than life exhibit. Between 2.5 and 3 million plants are arranged along a trail that snakes through the Montreal Botanical Garden. Fifty exhibits from 20 different countries seek to raise people’s awareness of the importance of preserving the natural wealth of the earth on which we all depend. Cernunnos, the Celtic deity who guards the gate to the underworld, is one of these.


This ram-horned serpent meanders through a shady willow grove.
Emerging from the earth is Cernunnos, an ancient Celtic deity.

Mosaicultures Internationales Montreal 2013 closes on September 29. If you haven’t yet seen it, make the effort. It is worth the trip.