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What is living sculpture?
We are defining living sculpture as sculpture created with living, growing, or recently harvested plants. It can be functional and/or ornamental.

What comes to mind when you think of sculpture?
Chances are, you may think of something made from clay, plaster, glass, bronze, or even, plastic. Sculptors through the ages have traditionally worked with media such as these. Although sculpting plants isn’t a new idea (think bonsai or topiary), its recent rediscovery by artists, horticulturalists, gardeners, and young people has given living sculpture an innovative popularity.

Living sculpture offers a highly appealing blend of art and science. On one hand, you’re creating a piece of art. It’s creative, it may be whimsical, and will surely stand out in your backyard, park, school, or community center. Creating a living sculpture gives you the chance to bring your own unique vision or idea to life (literally!) On the other hand, this piece of art is alive! The plants you use are a vital part of your sculpture. Those plants have needs that must be met to keep your sculpture alive, and may require special horticultural skills, such as grafting, to create the art.

Featured video: What is Living Sculpture?

Why make a living sculpture?

In the Cornell Garden-Based Learning Program, we are constantly on the look out for exciting activities that present gardening and horticulture in an unusual light. Not everyone gardens, nor is everyone interested in gardening. Yet, educators are eager to try something new in programs with children and youth, and educators are increasingly concerned about our environment; we all desire ways to connect children and youth in meaningful ways to the earth. Creating art from plants is an exciting place to begin!

Living sculpture is also a collaborative process. It’s true that the introductory activities in our on-line project guide are easy and can be completed indoors. And, you could plan, design, create, and care for a living sculpture on your own. However, living sculpture can also be a public piece of art. It can bring artistic minds, logistical minds, and scientific minds together. As a team project, creating a living sculpture can be about more than just art or science! A team collaborating to design and build a living sculpture can learn a lot about themselves, each other, and what partnerships are all about - while making a functional and/or ornamental public sculpture in their community.

Living sculpture categories:

Turf- or sod-works
Tree sculpture
Creative mowing & crop art



  • Living Sculpture. Cooper, Paul 2001. Mitchell Beazley.