A Beginner's Guide To Topiary
Currently back in fashion, topiary is the art of training plants by closely clipping them into shapes. Simple designs such as pyramids, cubes, cones or balls are popular; but anything from animals, fairies and birds such as peacocks could be clipped into these eye catching living sculptures. Topiary takes centre stage during the winter, when almost all flowers in the garden have faded, looking particularly striking on a frosty morning. It is possible to buy topiary plants ready trained, but they are expensive; and it's great fun and easy to have a go at topiary yourself.
If you fancy having a go, all you really need is a plant and some patience! There is no need for any fancy topiary equipment - ordinary garden shears or clippers and possibly hedge cutters when things grow and get that bit bigger are all you need. The best plants for topiary are evergreen, and woody shrubs with small leaves which create a tight, dense growth when clipped. Box is the most well known, but other good plants for topiary include yew, privet, holly, myrtle, lonicera nitida and bay. The best designs for beginners are simple shapes like a ball, cube or pyramid, which can often be trained by eye. Give yourself a helping hand and buy a frame in the shape you want - you can even buy plants ready planted with a topiary frame over them to get you started.
Winter is a good time to get planting. Choose your shape and decide whether you would like your topiary to be planted in the ground or in a pot. For less simple topiary shapes either buy a wire frame, sometimes plastic coated, or make your own by simply shaping chicken wire into your desired topiary design. Plant your topiary plant first and then place the shape over it. It is important to help plants get well established, so feed them regularly each spring in their formative years and keep an eye on watering any topiary grown in pots.
Once planted, just wait for the plant to start to outgrow the topiary frame and then start clipping. Keep clipping tight to the frame or wire shape, once or twice a year throughout the spring or summer, until the frame or chicken wire are eventually completely hidden within the dense foliage. Before you know it you will have successfully grown your own topiary!