Botanical Garden to host expanded ‘Imaginary Worlds’ exhibit next summer

Atlanta’s favorite beasties this side of the Georgia Aquarium and Zoo Atlanta will migrate back to Atlanta Botanical Garden next summer, joined by some woolly new friends.

The Midtown garden, which drew 162,000 for this summer’s run of “Imaginary Worlds: Plants Larger Than Life,” plans to give the exhibit of artful wildlife figures an encore starting in May 2014.

“Imaginary Worlds” will grow from 19 to 28 monumental sculptures, the garden is announcing Thursday exclusively in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the pieces will be sited in different and new areas of the garden.

Many of the sculptures — steel forms covered with thousands of pruned annuals that grow in soil-and-sphagnum moss-filled netting will sport fresh colors and textures in their new locations.

The nine new sculptures, created by International Mosaiculture of Montreal, will include two orangutans, three gorillas and four frogs.

The only sculpture from this summer’s show that will stay in place is 25-foot-tall Earth Goddess. The largest of the “Imaginary Worlds” creations was designed for the Cascades Garden, where she’s currently casting a wintry glow, transformed into Ice Goddess for the “Garden Lights, Holiday Nights” light show through Jan. 4.

During this summer’s run of “Imaginary Worlds,” attendance at the Botanical Garden doubled over the same period in 2012. Meanwhile, membership increased 30 percent, to more than 25,000 households.

Garden President and CEO Mary Pat Matheson, who aggressively pursued the first U.S. showing of mosaiculture, felt that the attraction could build on those figures now that this unique blend of art and science has been introduced here.

“The attraction to ‘Imaginary Worlds’ is the scale of these fantasy-type pieces, the humor and the fact that no one here has ever seen anything like it,” Matheson told the AJC. “There’s also this fascination with how you can get tens of thousands of tiny plants to grow on these forms during the heat of the summer.”

The garden also is announcing Thursday that it simultaneously will host an outdoor exhibit of artist Philip Haas' "Four Seasons" sculptures, a quartet of 15-foot-tall, cornucopia-like busts. Inspired by Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo's portraits that employed fruits, vegetables and flowers to depict facial features, Haas' fiberglass set was exhibited at the New York Botanical Garden this past summer.

“Four Seasons” will line Strickland Border, to the left of the Great Lawn as guests face the Fuqua Conservatory.

The two exhibitions will run concurrently May through October.