CALS landscape design students bring ‘Fantasy Croquet’ to Wilson Botanical Gardens

A giant bamboo fish sculpture takes shape at Wilson Botanical Gardens, with help from Will Hooker’s landscape design students.

The Wilson Botanical Gardens is now home to a whimsical bamboo sculpture created by landscape design students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Will Hooker, CALS horticultural science professor of landscape design, led his HS 400 studio class in the creation and installation of “Fantasy Croquet,” a larger-than-life interactive piece that is delighting visitors at the 11-acre gardens on the grounds of the Wilson County Cooperative Extension center.

The sculpture is made up of 8-foot-tall wickets through which a 4.5-foot-diameter croquet ball can be rolled toward a colorful post atop which is poised an orange koi or catfish-like piece with a blue flower in its mouth, floating around and spun by a wind catcher in the form of a ginkgo leaf. All elements are created from bamboo.

“It’s loads of fun!” said Hooker. “As I tell every class when I ask them to do a design for the bamboo sculpture, there are two requirements I insist on: First, whenever anyone sees the sculpture, I want them to at least smile; I would prefer a chuckle and love it when there’s outright laughter, but the point is that I want these sculptures to be fun — not maudlin or serious in any way.  Second, I prefer that these sculptures be interactive in some way.”

It’s successful on both counts, reports Cyndi Lauderdale, Wilson County horticulture Extension agent. “Feedback is all positive,” she said. “Since the sculpture is larger-than-life it is easily seen, and people question about it. Today we had a group of senior-citizen ladies come and tour the WBG. One actively played croquet with the 4.5-foot ball. It was great to see a senior running after the ball (which I think was taller than she was)!”

The idea to contact Hooker for the project came to Lauderdale after she read an article in Perspectives about a bamboo sculpture he and his students created at a Raleigh elementary school. “I thought the design was wonderful and a way to get the community and NCSU involved in a cooperative effort,” she said. “This project was supported by a grant from the Arts Council of Wilson through the North Carolina Arts Council Grassroots Arts Program, with funding from the state of North Carolina.”

The grounds of the Extension center and gardens are maintained by the Wilson Extension Master Gardener Volunteers.

—Terri Leith

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