Axel Erlandson’s family came to the United States from Sweden in 1886 when he was two years old. As a young boy living in Minnesota, Axel was inventive. He came to California with his family. He married, farmed, and harvested crops in Merced County. In 1925, he noticed a natural inosculation—a word meaning when two trees fuse together. Inspired and amused by this, he began a practice of coaxing trees to fuse and take unusual shapes, such as baskets, scallops, oil derricks, revolving doors, arches, and one called the four-legged giant. In 1946, Axel’s wife and daughter visited the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz. They persuaded him to move the trees to Scotts Valley and open the “Tree Circus”. He would notably tell curious children who wanted to know his secret methods that he would simply “talk” to the trees and they would grow this way. Many of his trees now live in Gilroy Gardens.
Axel Erlandson’s methods for shaping trees remain a secret, but one of his trees can be discovered in the MAH’s Secret Garden. Axel poses with several of his trees.