OSU to debut cowboy hat topiary

Thu, May 02, 2013

altJust in time for graduation photos, Oklahoma State University is preparing to unveil a unique landscape feature modeled after one of Garth Brooks’ cowboy hats. Weather permitting, the new topiary will be unveiled at 4 p.m. on Friday just south of Boone Pickens Stadium near Athletic and Hester Streets on campus. 

The cowboy hat is covered in a ficus plant, called ficus repens or “climbing fig,” an evergreen vine that attaches and completely covers an area. “It’s the same plant we used to cover the toe of the cowboy boot topiary that we introduced a couple of years ago, which is about the time I was wondering what we could do for an encore,” said Bill Hilson, OSU landscape technology specialist, who designed and constructed both topiaries with assistance from the grounds and landscape department. 

“I remember suggesting that we build a cowboy hat based on the shape of the one worn by country music star Garth Brooks,” said Hilson, "but I was thrilled and surprised later, when I was given an actual hat from the OSU alumnus to use as a model!” The hat is the same one that Brooks wore during the Oklahoma Centennial Celebration. 

The hat was scanned to create a three-dimensional computer model to build the framework for the topiary, which was sandblasted and prepped with an anti-rust coating to add years of use, explained Hilson. “The coating is the same material that’s used to protect truck beds. The frame is then covered with sphagnum moss and chicken wire and stuffed with potting soil and a drip irrigation system—all in enough time for our floriculture support employees to plant and grow the ficus.” 

From start to finish, Hilson estimates the project took about three months, and if the weather cooperates, the topiaries will be out and available for graduation photos during the weekend. Hilson notes both OSU topiaries come with bragging rights. “They’re the only living art pieces displayed on state-owned land and no other educational institution in Oklahoma has anything like them—they’re originals.”