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Gilroy Gardens
August 4, 2008

Gilroy, California's very own theme park may not be bursting at the seams with high-zoot thrill rides, but it is a unique place and certainly one of the prettiest parks in the world. This would be, of course, because it was designed specifically to feature a multitude of gardens and the amazing Circus Trees.

Circus Trees were first developed by Axel Erlandson in the first half of the 20th Century. Erlandson figured out how to bend tree trunks and limbs as they were growing, fashioning them into geometric shapes weaving in and out of one another. By 1947, he had created enough of these living sculptures to open "The Tree Circus" in Scotts Valley, CA, and their peculiar beauty earned them Ripley's Believe it or Not notoriety. Eventually, Erlandson grew more than 70 of the trees.

But over time, after Erlandson's death in 1964, the trees were treated with less care and their numbers dwindled. A community effort led by Mark Primack saved the remaining CTs and back in 2001, when Michael and Claudia Bonfante opened their Bonfante Gardens theme park, the Circus Trees were the horticultural highlights.

Bonfante Gardens struggled its first few years and eventually the city bought the park, turned it into a non-profit organization, hired Paramount Parks to manage it, and renamed it Gilroy Gardens. It's good to know that Cedar Fair, who in the interim purchased the Paramount Parks properties, recently renewed their management contract for another two years, ensuring that Gilroy Gardens will survive in its present incarnation for at least awhile longer.


Just past the ticket booths are some of the C-Trees. Here are two views of the "Optical Illusion" Tree:

Kinda cool, yes?

"Stop messing with my mind, man!"

Love Agrarian Style:

See, "Love American Style" was a popular sit-com back in the 1970s...

Ain't that sweet?

If a tree and an octopus had some sort of unholy offspring, it might look like this:

That's one twisted sister.

Once into the park proper, there's a wide wooden bridge to cross, the "Sycamore Bridge,"
surrounded by normal-like trees.

The Gardening begins.

I won't get too bogged down with the gardens portions of the Gardens, but you should know that there are plenty, if that sort of thing spins your top. There's Claudia's Garden, Rainbow Garden, Monarch Garden, Camellia Garden, Holly Garden, and South Country Backroads Garden. All together, they make the entire park super lush and full of The Pretty.

Like this:

Pri-tee

And this:

Al-gee

And this:

Purple is cool.

And this:

Palms are also good.

And this:

A riot of color, one of those good kinds of riots.

And this, too:

Burbling streams make me feel nice and mellow.

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© Robert Coker
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