Every element to this fascinating story seems ripe for a feature documentary. There are the trees, seemingly extraterrestrial but undoubtedly man-made. There is Axel Erlandson, an arboreal alchemist with grand visions of commercial success but whose endless hours spent on his menagerie point to a devotion verging on the spiritual. There are the variable horticultural triumphs hinting at the fame he longed for but found difficult to cultivate. And then the neglect, the constant confusion over ownership, and the epic transfer to a theme park. An aberrant Wagnerian Philip Glass passage would be blaring in the soundtrack at this time. A wife, an architect (not a landscape architect), and a nurseryman complete the cast.
Someone contact Errol Morris!
It is a variation on a classic garden narrative — an eccentric, garden aesthete, the favorite of aristocrats or even an aristocrat himself, experimenting with forms at a grand country estate, which becomes the stage setting for social fraternizing. Amidst the part-Japanese, part-Egyptian, part-Classical regular-irregular topiary jungle, social conventions are strictly enforced. One faux pas and you suffer the same fate as Glen Close in the finale of Dangerous Liaison. Except when it's a deliciously illicit tryst, which everyone else would be having. And then circumstances of history lead to the garden's ruin, to the designer obscurity, only to be rediscovered and transformed into a theme park in contemporary times.
Tourists now flock en mass. And well-funded grad students come for an hour and then proceed to spend their remaining grant money drinking and partying.
Wind Tunnel QTVR