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Landscape architect Topher Delaney collaborated with the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society to create “Arcimboldo’s Edible Garden,” a demonstration garden that was meant to engage visitors in conversations about global food sources and sustainable gardening. It was installed in the San Francisco’s Botanical Garden’s Edible Garden and meant to be on view for approximately 10 months.

Delaney took inspiration from the work of Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593), an Italian painter best known for imaginative portrait heads formed from realistic depictions of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other objects. Her installation featured distinctive assemblages of planting boxes of different shapes and sizes, made of different repurposed materials.  Each assemblage contained plant species from a different part of the world.

The project collaborators planned to feature two tables – one of which was milled from a large Torrey Pine that fell in the botanical garden during winter storms. The second was to feature imagery depicting maps of the Old and New Worlds, with colorful forms of fruits and vegetables placed in the manner of an Arcimboldo painting.

The project was delayed due to challenges with gathering paving and table materials, and interpretative signage was not completed. However, the site is used as a gathering place by many group tours.

Topher Delaney has created numerous institutional, commercial, and private installations focusing on gardens as structures for the integration of sculptures, functional furniture, paintings, and water features. Bay Area projects include gardens of medicinal plants for the Avon Breast Cancer Center at San Francisco General Hospital and the UCSF Medical School.

Photo: SFGate