Wooed by the Uff-da Palace

The Uff-da Palace created by sculptor, Patrick Doherety, is on display at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum from now until 2011.

Without even packing a travel bag, I’ve left home.  Wooed by the shapely exterior and supple vines, I can’t resist being lured inside the Uff-da Palace.  Although made from local natural materials, the Palace conjures up images of sand, camels and faraway palaces.  My mind tries to sort through the complexity of this irony, but as I cross the threshold  these realities dim and fade.  I enter a mystical place of daring and wonder.

A canopy of branches and twigs loosely covers the central hallways inside the Palace

Thus is the magic of well-crafted garden sculptures and structures.  They have the power to move us from the realities and responsibilities of life into moments of fantasy, contemplation, and pure joy.   The Uff-da Palace delivers on this promise and is a gardener’s dream come true. Conceived and constructed by Patrick Dougherty and 80 volunteers, it is made from willow twigs, branches and saplings woven and twisted together.  Its comical name, purposeful lean-into-the-wind slant, and construction material satisfy my competing desires for both whimsy and practicality in my garden.  The voice in my head whispers, “I want one.  What if this were in my yard?   How would I spend my time in it?”

It turned out that I wasn’t alone in my garden palace fantasies.  Upon entering I discovered a small group of women were already inside busily chatting up their own palace dreams.  For them, the central canopy of branches connecting the four small, circular rooms inspired plans for girls’ nights out, wedding showers, tea parties…

Narrow passageways connect the four small rooms

Had I been there with my sons the Palace’s narrow passageways and open windows would probably have had them dreaming of forts, sleep-outs, airsoft wars…..

…..And my hubby.  I imagine he would have been looking up to the open sky picturing Sunday nap times, summer reading, and a secret place to conceal his wife’s proposed compost pile. (No disrespect to the artistry intended, but as mentioned elsewhere, he does have a very practical side.)

Each room opens to the sky above

Since my first magical encounter, I’ve been back to the Palace several times. While the grandeur of the Uff-da is better suited to the MLA than my backyard, spending time within the woven palace walls has inspired a new direction in my garden.

I’ve traded in my idea of a gazebo situated near my cutting garden for a unique but simpler garden structure that is textural, natural and better suited to my own smaller space.  One that at some point I may even be able to craft myself.  (Hmmm….)  I now envision one piece that serves the function of both structure and sculpture.  I also like the idea of using more raw materials even if it means the piece is more temporary (the branches of the Palace will decompose throughout the year).

If you’re near the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in the upcoming months, be sure to stop by and be wooed by the Uff-da Palace.  Just don’t wait too long. Like a Minnesota summer, the Uff-da Palace won’t be around for forever : )