Decades after it opened, Cliff Finch's Topiary Zoo still a hidden gem in the Central Valley

FRIANT, Calif. (KFSN) -- Cliff Finch's Topiary Zoo is more often just called "The Zoo," and owner Joanie Finch says the name has made for some interesting calls.

"I get calls from people wanting to come to the zoo... probably shouldn't have called it the zoo," Finch said with a laugh.

The Zoo is actually a topiary store in Friant that's been open just north of Fresno since 1981. "I can only think of a few places in the nation where they grow topiaries," she said. Topiary is described as the art of shaping and trimming plants into ornamental shapes, including animals.

"Deer are popular, quails and ducks are popular," Finch said. "It goes in phases. Sometimes we'll just get a bunch of orders for angels. And then, all of a sudden people want dolphins." Finch says their online catalog has about 95 different shapes for shoppers to choose from, but if you can dream it, they can try to make it."

"We made a giraffe that went to Michael Jackson's garden, and a few years ago we delivered to Dick Clark some 50s dancers," she said. "So it's kind of crazy the ideas people come up with."

Finch says her father was the one who initially fell in love with topiary. Her husband Cliff began welding together the frames for the plants, and Joanie later took the lead on the business after her father passed and her husband stepped away from the business. Her brother-in-law now welds the frames and Joanie grows the plants and shapes them to the frames, with the help of volunteers.

"I love being here, outdoors, people who are gardeners understand this. It's peaceful, there's no controversy, I just feel God's work in creation," she said. "It's really a labor of love. I do this because I love doing it."

"I love working with plants. They don't talk back," Finch said with a laugh. "If you give them what they need, they return by growing and looking beautiful."

For more information on the topiary zoo, click here.
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