Not quite nature at the Morris Arboretum

Molly and Poppies
Molly taking picture of Gary G. Miller’s Papaver Rubrum Giganteum installation at the Morris Arboretum

My friend Molly sent me an email with a picture of some ebullient sculptural poppies. Nature may not have been enough to lure me to the Morris Arboretum. But Molly, being wise, knew that sculpture would do the trick.

Papaver Rubrum Giganteum, by sculptor Gary G. Miller, is a field of 300 giant red poppies in a meadow just inside the Arboretum gates. Molly said she had bumped into Miller the day she discovered the installation, and that Miller said he talked the arboretum into letting him do it.


The red aluminum poppies bob on 10-foot tall pvc pipe stems (threaded over re-bar sunk in the ground). They made me think of people as much as they made me think of the profusion of nature. They also make me think of Wordsworth’s “crowd of golden daffodils.” The installation will be up until June 29.

Paul Busse
Paul G. Busse and one of his creations for the Garden Railroad.

While we were at the arboretum, admiring this plant and that, we happened upon the man behind the Garden Railway, currently being installed. The garden railroad architect is Paul G. Busse, of Applied Imagination, and he makes these amazing miniature buildings out of plant materials like bark, leaves, and acorns–even banana stems!


The Castle of the White Tower (Japan)
The Castle of the White Tower (Japan)

Busse, who beams over his creations, was telling us that he uses Google Earth to get the footprints of buildings. He also uses internet images, including tourist snapshots, but it’s tough finding what a building looks like past the front in those. Another great source, he said, is the Library of Congress’s Built in America website. When he was building a miniature White House, the White House wouldn’t give him the plans, though all he wanted was the exterior. He went to Built in America, and there it was, all the information he needed. It’s also a great source for railroad bridges.

Hagia Sophia (Istanbul)
Hagia Sophia (Istanbul)

This is the 11th year for the garden railroad in the arboretum, and it brings in a crowd who might otherwise never go there for a visit. This year, he’s showing off buildings from all around the world. Here’s the list:

  • The Great Wall of China (China)
  • The Taj Mahal (India)–he painted it white. The rest are brown.
  • Hagia Sophia (Istanbul)
  • Tikal (Guatemala)
  • Machu Picchu (Peru)
  • Petra (Jordan)
  • Buddhist Temple (Nepal)
  • The Castle of the White Tower (Japan)
  • The Giza Pyramid
  • The Alexandria Light House (Egypt)
  • The Eiffel Tower (Paris)

building the garden railway
Building the Great Wall of China, with natural materials and construction goop

Busse’s a guy who clearly found a way to make a business out of the thing he loves doing most in the world. His work grew out of a boyhood love of model railroads, he said.

paul g busse's garden railway
One of the railroad bridges. I love the garden clippers dropped in the miniature garden on the right. The shift in scale is Alice in Wonderland.