In the land of topiaries, Joe Kyte is a bright, shining star. He whips up plant creations of all kinds that have made appearances all over the world.
It really is a jungle at his home on the Cherohala Skyway. Indigenous plants, beautiful insects and a big, scary dragon? It's his mailbox. Welcome to the wild world of Topiary Joe.
He's a character alright, a character that makes characters of all kinds. "I stuffed and planted quite a lot of hippos, and dancing alligators, Mickey, Minnie, Cinderella," says Joe.
Notice the Disney theme? Well, that's where Topiary Joe got his start. "I happened upon Disney World. I saw the topiaries there and thought that was quite a nice market," says Joe.
So, he did a little research with his dear ole' dad. "He said, 'Well, they take a table vice like that one sitting over there and they bend steel rod and then they weld it,' and then he showed my how to weld," says Joe.
And that's how he still does it to this day. "Up in the shop right now we have a 12 foot giraffe started and I've got to make a herd of six giraffe for the landscape architect in L.A.," says Joe. "He wants me to put them on red tractor wheels so that he can tow this life-size giraffe around his estate in Santa Monica...and this is my customers."
He's made quite a name for himself in this niche market. "In Ireland and England I've done a herd of elephants for elephantfamily.org and one of my customers there is now Prince Charles and Camilla. They've got a full elephant in their garden," says Joe.
He even got to attend a soiree in London with some big name stars. "It was a great party, got to sit and talk with Annie Lennox, and The Rolling Stones and quite a few other personalities that were there," says Joe.
The biggest piece he's done is unique to say the least, a 62-foot dinosaur. It had to be broken down into three pieces just to get it to its destination. So, he travels a lot, but it's this destination here in East Tennessee that he loves most.
"I'm right across the street from the Tellico River where I can go fly fishing every evening, which is a bonus," says Joe. "My backyard is the Cherokee National Forest that I can go play on."
Topiary Joe, a plant master with a solid master plan.
"I've always tried to be ahead of the curve on what people will be wanting in the future and I decided to stick with this one and it's starting to pay off," says Joe.
One of "Your Stories". There's no place like this one.