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JOHN BURNETT: It was 10 years ago when I first visited the highland town of Zarcero, in Alajuela Province, Costa Rica, with my wife, Ginny, and our children, Willie, Grant and Helen. We'd come to see the famed topiary garden in front of the pink and blue Iglesia de San Rafael. The kids were enraptured, racing around the more than a hundred juniper bushes sculpted and clipped into whimsical shapes.

When I returned last November, just as before the gardener sauntered out of the groundskeeper's house with a welcoming grin.

Mr. EVANGELISTA BLANCO BRENES (Gardener): (Spanish spoken)

BURNETT: Evangelista Blanco Brenes - 64 years old, a dapper man with a mustache, a fedora and a pair of hedge clippers - created this fanciful garden in 1964, and he's been expanding it for the last 44 years.

Mr. BRENES: (Spanish spoken)

BURNETT: He points out the giant rabbit, the helicopter, the airplane, the baskets, the monkey on a motorcycle, and the dancing couple.

I also see a peacock, a dinosaur, an octopus, strange masks, Christ carrying a cross, and an oxcart - the Costa Rican national symbol. The local favorites are the 16 growing green arches leading to the Catholic church.

(Soundbite of hedge clippers)

BURNETT: The living sculptures require constant trimming. The snipping releases a wonderful fresh evergreen scent.

Mr. BRENES: (Spanish spoken)

BURNETT: It's so much, it takes a month to trim them all, he says. And when I'm finished, it's time to start over.

Topiary has been around since the time of Julius Caesar, reaching its zenith in English gardens, where shrubs were pruned into architectural shapes. With the eccentric topiary garden of Zarcero, Evangelista Blanco has found his life's calling and a medium for his philosophy. He has placed hand-lettered signs between the bushes.

Mr. BRENES: (Spanish spoken)

BURNETT: Persevere and you shall succeed. No one is better than another. Dedicate yourself to love and peace.

I'll suggest another aphorism: If you let your mind wander, keep your hedge clippers sharpened.

SIMON: Come to our Web site, npr.org, to see pictures.

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