Did you know that Axel Erlandson was the man who created a most unusual form of art?
This brilliant artist was a horticulturist who became well known for shaping living trees into extraordinary forms and fascinated everyone who looked at them.
His skillful creations made him famous and inspired a lot of artists all over the world.
Axel Erlandson was born in 1884 to Swedish parents. His family immigrated to the United States in 1886. During his early years he grew up in Minnesota, but when he was 17 his family moved to the Hilmar Colony near Turlock, California, where the dry, desert-like land provided them with a little water. He taught himself land surveying and he loved observing nature.
This amazing creator started tree shaping as a hobby in 1925. Tree shaping is about creating artistic designs on trees and Erlandson became a real master of the art. He claimed to have divine inspiration and used sophisticated grafting techniques in order to create spectacular shapes on tree trunks and branches, which he had bent carefully. The result was amazing designs such as hearts, bolts, weaves and rings. He went on shaping trees for over 40 years. By 1957, Erlandson had created unique designs on more than 70 living trees.
It was Erlandson’s daughter and wife who came up with the idea of selling tickets to people who wanted to come and see the trees. In 1945 Wilma and Leona were influenced by what they saw during their stay in Santa Cruz, California, where they visited the “Mystery Spot”. That’s why they thought it would be a good idea to do the same. As a result, a year later Erlandson opened The Tree Circus, a place that would attract people who wanted to admire his extraordinary designs. Locals and tourists could experience the wonder of the “World’s Strangest Trees.” People say that when children would ask him how he made the trees, he would say “Oh, I talk to them”.
Erlandson’s art was featured several times and became really famous. However, “Tree Circus” wasn’t a financial success and Erlandson was forced to sell the property before his death in 1964. After going through several owners, his property was bought by Michael Bonfante, a horticulture enthusiast and the owner of Nob Hill Foods. In order to protect the trees, he opened Gilroy Gardens in 1985.
Erlandson’s work has inspired numerous artists and designers who love building living, organic structures. Today, the 25 Circus Trees that are still alive represent in the most sincere way the true love of nature by humans.