As you walk through Zarcero’s central park, Don Evangelista Blanco Brenes looks like any ordinary gardener trimming the hedges. That is, until you get a glimpse of his striking blue eyes. Then you know he’s special. This must be the man behind the jardín.
Situated in the mountains roughly 80km from San Jose, the town of Zarcero is rather unremarkable – except that it’s home to the most perfect little park in all of Costa Rica. It’s a veritable Alice in Wonderland of psychedelic cypress trees immaculately shaped into arches, dinosaurs, monkeys, bulls being driven by ox arts, airplanes and Evangelista’s latest up-and-coming creation: a life-sized self portrait he’s making to look just like a green version of himself.
Evangelista is now 67 years old, and he has been managing the park for over 50 years. It all started back in 1964, when at the ripe age of 25 he was contracted by the Municipality of Zarcero to plant a garden in the square just in front of the town’s 2-spired church, La Iglesia de San Rafael Arcángel. Unsatisfied with a boring, ordinary garden, Evangelista planted cypress trees from seed. Each seed takes about 4 years to grow large enough for shaping, and Evangelista learned his craft entirely through experimentation. 100% self taught, he never took a gardening class or read a single book on the art of cyprus sculpting.
Take one look at the park, and it’s quite obvious that Evangelista was born to do this job. He is out there every single day from about 4am to 4pm, snipping away and doing what he loves. The man never takes a day off. In fact, he works so much that he burns through about 6 pairs of heavy-duty clippers per year.
When asked where he gets his inspiration, he points to the sky and gives credit to “el maestro” up above. Evangelista is single, with no kids. He considers the park and its masterpieces his children. When asked which is his favorite bush, he maintains that he doesn’t pick favorites – just like a parent, he loves all of his children equally.
Foreigners have tried to poach Evangelista’s talent for years. Companies in Spain, Argentina and even representatives from Disney have tried to tempt him to abandon his park – but Evangelista is in Zarcero for the long haul. He cordially invites visitors from near and far to stop by and say hello. You can find him wandering around the park, picking up rogue pieces of trash and snipping away unruly branches.