By Greg Rubin.
When the SDHS honored me with a request to design and install their display for the 2019 SD County Fair, and its Wizard of Oz-based theme “No Place Like Home,” I thought it was a perfect opportunity to illustrate the concept of the landscape as a movie set. Whereas many of the participants’ exhibits incorporate the Oz story ideas in subtle and clever ways, I took a more literal approach, choosing to create the feel of a set from that iconic 1938 move infused with my own native plant horticultural twist.
Since this was a single display, I took artistic license and incorporated several scenes into one. The exhibit combines the initial encounter of the rusted Tin Man across from his shack; the impending discovery of the Cowardly Lion; and the beautiful (but opium-laced) poppy fields intended by the Wicked Witch to curtail their adventure, with the final destination of the Emerald City (and home) off in the distance.
As in the movie, the illusion of depth and infinite boundaries come from the use of forced perspective and a backdrop. My good friend and local artist/muralist/set designer/native plant specialist Edmond Piffard did extraordinary work composing the enormous 11’ x 40’ the Emerald City/wildflower-field backdrop. He created breathtakingly accurate profile figures for the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion (poking his head from behind a rock in back), Dorothy, and Toto. Finally, Edmond painted the Tin Man’s shack to resemble an old ramshackle cabin, with a door reminiscent of the move version.
The Tin Man’s shack may appear questionably constructed. However, this was quite intentional. In order to enhance perspective, we used multiple CAD program vanishing points to achieve tapering. Open windows with curtains and interior lighting were added. Finally, Laura Eubanks, the celebrated succulent artist and owner of “Design for Serenity,” installed an amazing succulent garden on the roof.
The “Yellow Brick Road” tapers from front to back, which required skilled labor to cut and place the bright yellow bricks. Except for the succulents and the large, field grown 17’ high Eastern redbud trees (Cercis canadensis), the entire garden is composed of plants native to California. Path, spot, and flood lighting illuminate individual characters, features, trees, and the Emerald City.
Special thanks to Terry Chamberlin, for doing a wonderful job of formatting and printing all the signage. Gratitude for all the assistance from Tree of Life and Recon native nurseries, and especially Moosa Creek nursery for giving us large trees, even allowing us literally to pluck mature Eastern redbuds right out of the ground! I also want to thank the capable SDHS volunteers who lent their hands (and backs), my old friend Bill Entz from LA who stayed and worked at least eight hours every day, and my talented crew from California’s Own Native Landscape Design, Inc., lead by Leo Hernandez, for installing the most technically challenging parts of the exhibit.
Come see it at the Fair!