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Art of Gardens - Topher Delaney at Cornerstone Sonoma

Garden Play by Topher Delaney  –  Seam Studio: Land Projects

TDelaney Garden Play - Photo Copyright Alice Joyce

Environmental artist; garden builder; sculptor: It’s not easy to fit Topher Delaney or the work produced by Seam Studio into a given category. Nor is it easy to describe Garden Play, Delaney’s installation created for Cornerstone Sonoma, where you will come upon gardens designed by world renowned landscape architects and designers.

Contemporary Garden Design… Amazon

Having been called beautiful and witty, Delaney’s design poses questions about the nature (pun intended) of a garden. Shade fabric, used on either side, closes off the space, while Bar Code 39 – illustrated along the back wall and made of recycled plastic lumber, indicates the symbolism/significance = to garden play. Have gardens become commodities?  How do you define a garden?

Topher Delaney ‘Garden Play’ Overview //  Photo © Alice Joyce

Delaney planted eight birch trees: their white trunks and gestural branches repeating the white of the fabric enclosure on 2 sides. The ground plane, too, composed of crushed oyster shells, represents another bright white element. All these facets continually shift in tone; as rain falls in a cascade, clouds pass overhead, or the oftentimes brilliant rays of the sun burn down. Shadows from the trees and the oversize balls bring another lively aspect to the surroundings.

Take in the space from a seat on one of the woven spheres. Or, perhaps you’re more inclined to toss them about. Spare… minimal? Yes. Playful and provocative? Most definitely. Garden Play is one of numerous child-friendly environments at Cornerstone Sonoma, with its garden installations; fabulous bevy of shops for interior design and outdoor settings; SAGE cafe offering seasonal menus to delight foodies; wine tasting & the Sonoma Valley Visitors Center. A place where you’re likely to see kids interacting with the adults in-tow; enjoying opportunities to experience early-on the challenging notions associated with the art of gardens.

6 comments to Art of Gardens: Topher Delaney Design – Cornerstone Sonoma

  • Dear Alice, I have never heard of Topher Delaney, but I love this installation of his. The cone-shaped pieces on the ground look as if they were constructed in some way from heavy duty rope and their texture makes for me a wonderfully dynamic tension between them, the containing walls and the ground surface. It looks as if the ‘catkins’ of the Birch trees have been shed and have become giant sized. In my eyes, it is rather an Alice in Wonderland experience, playful and yet somewhat mysterious. I do like the barcode wall which does beg so many questions.

  • Wow, I’m so glad I stopped by your blog today. I’ll be spending some time in Sonoma County next week with plenty of time to kill, and that looks like a really cool place to check out. Thanks!

  • That’s interesting, dear Alice! The place has a friendly atmosphere.

  • Thank you for introducing the work of Topher Delaney to me, Alice. I love gardens that make me smile and this one really did. T Delaney may have never seen a cricket game before but these photos really do make me think of a cricket pitch with the stumps (the back wall) placed just so, the balls in readiness to be bowled and the fielders (the birch trees) placed around to catch the balls!lol!
    Maybe it’ll make sense when I add that the sport of cricket is India’s national religion (well, almost!) ;D
    But quite apart from that, it really is very visually pleasing.

  • Hi Alice – more people need to write about Cornerstone. I went there back in April and wrote about it in my San Francisco postscript here:, but I’ve written a feature about it which will hopefully be in an upcoming issue of the Garden Design Journal. It’s a wonderfully inspiring place to visit. I loved Topher’s installation (it’s so photogenic), and also the blue trees – you come away really thinking about the designs. It’s worth the trip…