These wonderful shaped trees, so called “Circus Trees”, were originally created and grown by Axel Erlandson.
This amazing artist was born in 1884 in Sweden.
Axel with his family migrated to the United States in early 1886, and in his childhood lived in Minnesota, but by the age of 17 they moved to California, where he became a farmer.
Axel’s hobby was shaping trees. This is actually a method of growing trees into artistic designs, and we can see from the pictures that Erlandson was a true master of the art. He bent the trunks and branches very carefully and made different designs like rings, hearts, baskets and weaves. Also, he had the growth of the trees under control in order to complete the designs perfectly.
Erlandson taught himself over a period of decades how to control and train the growth of trees into shapes of his own design and he considered his methods trade secrets. Sometimes children asked him how he got his trees to grow like this, he would reply, “I talk to them.”
This hobby turned into something bigger when his wife and daughter suggested that he could earn by showing the mesmerizing trees to the public.
They actually got this idea when they saw people lined up to pay to see some oddities in Santa Cruz, California, so Axel thought this would be a perfect place for a tree circus. He bought a plot of land, carefully moved the trees to Scotts Valley, and opened the “Tree Circus” so that people could come and see the strangest trees in the world.
His trees gained media attention and become popular in the entire world. The fact that his trees were featured a number of times in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Unfortunately, the tree circus was a financial failure, and Erlandson’s health was endangered. He died in 1964, right after he sold his property along with the trees.
Erlandson had created more than 70 strange unique trees over a 40-year-period. The trees were bought and sold so many times because the new owners couldn’t take proper care of them and many trees died. They made an effort to uncover his secret, without success. Finally, horticulture enthusiast and the owner of Nob Hill Foods, Michael Bonfante, bought the property and continued the project of rescuing those amazing trees. Bonfante opened Gilroy Gardens In 1985, and moved the trees to their current home, where can be still seen.
25 Circus Trees are still alive today.
A great example of turning a hobby into something extraordinary.
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