The Chelsea Flower Show may be over for another year, but green thumbs in search of weird and wonderful garden art need only look to China for inspiration. A series of animal-shaped plant sculptures have proved immensely popular with visitors to the International Horticultural Exposition in Xian, capital of northwest Chinas Shaanxi Province. The exhibits include one of Chinas national animals, the Red-crowned crane, sharing a tree with a monkey. Another national animal, the iconic giant panda, is seen nursing a baby panda. The makers have also crafted a cow and a herd of elephants, one with its trunk raised, in a field of flowers. To achieve the unique living sculptures, the specialists must regularly clip the foliage and twigs of trees and shrubs to train them to grow in the right direction to form the decorative shapes. The exposition opened in April and runs for around six months. It is expected to attract around 12 million visitors to Xian, one of the most important cities in Chinese history and renowned as the location of the terracotta warriors. The 2011 Chelsea Flower Show, which was held in May, also had its share of strange exhibits, including the Korean Hae-woo-so garden and its feature toilet. Diarmuid Gavins gold medal-winning Irish Sky Garden featured classic English plants suspended in the air in a large pink pod, while the Thailand Garden featured its own exotic animals made entirely of flowers, including an elephant and Guardian Lion. -MO