The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers is a new addition to our library. In this story, a boy named William discovers that the tree outside his window has been transformed overnight into topiary. Each night, more trees in his town are mysteriously turned into whimsical animals and shapes. Page by page, the illustrations are more colorful as the night gardener’s creative work boosts the moods of William and the entire town. The book has been fascinating the girls.


Topiary gardening is the art of fashioning living plants to the shapes of animals or other figures and is a centuries-old practice. The Night Gardener reminded me that there is a topiary garden nearby, where plants are shaped like animals and other objects. After reading The Night Gardener several times, I packed a picnic and the girls and I set off to explore the Green Animals Topiary Garden.


The garden is absolutely beautiful, and while we were there we spoke with one of the gardeners who was working to restore some of the older animal topiaries (some are nearly 100 years old). He described to the girls how the plants change over time and need to be constantly maintained. At the time, he is working to regrow the trunk on an elephant, which could take years to fully grow!


We loved making a connection to the book, and the girls really enjoyed exploring the beautiful garden on a sunny day. As we were leaving my four-year-old said, “Mom, I guess The Night Gardener is nonfiction!” We have a ways to go on this, but I like that visiting the garden made the book feel so “real.”


Which of your favorite books inspire field trips?