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Topiary is the art of shaping live perennial trees and shrubs into clearly defined shapes. Topiary was introduced into Roman gardens at the time of Julius Caesar, during the first century BCE, about a hundred years before the time of Miriam bat Isaac.

In THE DEADLIEST HATE, Miriam mentions the fanciful topiary in the gardens of the estate where Judah’s brother Eran lives:

Rounding the corner onto the Decumanus Maximus, I saw the upper stories of limestone mansions peeking above leafy groves of flowering hibiscus. As I passed each estate, I’d part the foliage and gape at the colonnades and arcades, balconies and porticoes, loggias and statuary, arbors and fishponds, waterfalls and fountains. And then, near the end of the second block, Judah turned, and I followed him through a portal into a miniature park of smooth lawns and fanciful topiary screened by a grove of Mediterranean cypress.

Too bad for Miriam but good for you, it’s inside Eran’s home that Miriam’s troubles spiral out of control. In fact, the fears that brought her to Caesarea in the first place are nothing compared to the bloody trail of death that surrounds her (Hint: more than one trail).

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