The next time you say hello to a hedge and don’t hear it say anything in return, you may want to listen a little harder. “They whisper,” says the man standing beside us with laugh, “they don’t yell out.”
His name is Georgio and he first heard a yew tree talk 25 years ago. Before he shows us how that conversation ended, he invites us to see how another one is beginning. He looks up at a still untamed tree in his backyard and points around it. “The tail’s going to be over there. The flipper’s here. And I haven’t decided to put a ball on the end of its nose or not.” After looking at it and listening to it, Georgio has agreed to help the tree reveal its inner seal.
The videographer starts capturing the sounds and sights of how Georgio does that: hands and garden tools snipping and clipping; moving together as one in a jubilant dance.
When Georgio is done, we don’t see much change. He says we won’t see the seal for about five years. “It’s the voyage. Not the destination.” He shows us a plant that’s a couple years into the process of becoming a peacock, its ‘feathers’ starting to fan out behind it.
And then we walk towards the front yard of his Rockland home. Return to the tree that first caught our attention as we were searching for stories for the end of the six o’clock news – the tree shaped like a duck.
It towers over us. The videographer has to step back a few meters to get it all in. To make sure he can get the duck’s hat in the frame. This first conversation that Georgio started almost a quarter century ago has ended by putting a hat on the hedge. The bonnet is made from an upside-down waste-paper basket, fake flowers and an umbrella with a penguin pattern. It’s tied around the topiary’s neck with a blue ribbon from a mattress pad wrapping.
I ask why it was worth the time and effort to turn the tree into a duck with a hat and Georgio laughs. He laughs often. “I like whimsy, a little bit of fun, joking around.”
And the trees seem to like being transformed. The duck is apparently set to return the favour, by helping to celebrate Georgio’s daughter’s upcoming wedding. It whispered it wanted to wear a veil.
I ask what his daughter will think? Georgie responds with a laugh: “Surprised, unexpected and dad’s at it again!”
Adam Sawatsky is co-host of CTV News Vancouver Island at Five. On weekends, he hosts ‘Eye on the Arts’ on CFAX 1070.