Logo

Try a little topiary

PUBLISHED: 10:00 03 September 2017

Try your hand at topiary whilst the sun's still shining with our how-to guide

Try your hand at topiary whilst the sun's still shining with our how-to guide

Archant

Unveil your artistic talent with some simple topiary to create evergreen cones, obelisks, spheres and more

First impressions count, and topiary can be a welcome addition to your exterior facade First impressions count, and topiary can be a welcome addition to your exterior facade

If you’ve visited stately homes and gardens this summer and admired the architectural beauty of evergreen spheres and cones, beautifully clipped mazes, evergreen peacocks and other statuesque shapes, you may be inspired to create your own topiary.

This art of training plants into intricate shapes and forms may seem an occupation for the extremely skilled and artistic gardener, but now, as many of us are trimming our hedges, it’s worth considering a few simple tricks of the topiary trade.

You can create a whimsical shape from a plant which will be both eye-catching and a topic of conversation when spotted.

Start with simple shapes

Balls, pyramids, cones and obelisks are among the easiest shapes to start with, according to the RHS. Choose a young, well-proportioned plant such as box or yew, which can be tightly clipped for detailed work. They are slow-growing, so once their shape is established it should be fairly easy to maintain. You can also use holly, privet and the evergreen honeysuckle Lonicera nitida.

Wire frames are widely available to create the shape you want and flexible young shoots can be tied into the frame to create bushy growth. Sideshoots can be cut regularly back to two or three buds to encourage branching. When the plant is growing, make sure the ties aren’t cutting into the stems. Stems facing downwards will grow the slowest and need to be tied in regularly, while vertical growth is the quickest.

Larger statues need open sites

Individual specimens can be grown in pots, but if you are after something bigger they will be more likely to succeed in an open sunny site, sheltered from strong winds.

As both box and yew are slow-growing, they only need trimming twice a year once their shape is established, in early summer and early autumn, using sheep shears or single-handed clippers.

If you are starting from scratch, choose a plant that already has the makings of a shape, such as a dome or spire, so all you have to do is exaggerate it.

Common ivy can easily be trained into formal shapes with, say, the help of sweet pea rings, to grow around metal hoops or arches against a wall. Dwarf conifers can also be used to make effective architectural shapes, while upright varieties are ideal for training into obelisks or spires. Common holly can be used to make into mushroom or sphere shapes.

Create a lollipop

To make a standard box bush, when the plant is around 2ft high gradually shorten the lower branches by half so a stem forms and shape the top into a rough ball shape. A year later, cut all branches from the stem. The lollipop top should be half the stem height and you can then trim it to shape.

As the plant matures, the branches and leaves should become tightly knitted to give a solid appearance. Apply an annual dressing of Growmore and mulch the soil with organic matter in spring.

Shape a sphere

To make a topiary sphere, stand above the plant and clip a broad band around its waist. Clip from the top middle point to the waist, then upwards from the bottom middle point to the waist. That will give you the outline for your sphere.

These sort of shapes look great in pairs outside front doors to make an impressive entrance, or add structure when put together on a patio.

If you want to make a pyramid or cone, tie three canes together into an extended triangle to use almost as a guideline for shape, tying any long shoots to the cane with twine to form the outer edges and prune the plants to the pyramid template.

Use frames for complex shapes

With other shapes, place a wire ‘former’ over the plant and only start clipping once the plant has grown through. Formers, unlike frames, can be removed once the outline of the shape has developed. Use frames of sturdy wire to help with more complex shapes such as spirals, cake stands, arches and animals.

Potted topiary needs watering thoroughly and regularly in summer and the roots need protection from frost in the winter.

Once you have got the hang of the sphere or the pyramid, who knows, before long you may be able to create that grand peacock you’ve been dreaming about.

Property search


e.g. Oxford or NW3
Powered by Zoopla

Other Hampstead and Highgate property news

Looking after your lawn: three essential tools

Love your lawn? So, get the right tools to help you maintain it in summer. Hannah Stephenson selects three essentials to make the job easier.

David Walliams is selling Noel Gallagher’s former Belsize Park home

Britain’s Got Talent judge and author David Walliams is selling his Hampstead home for 5.35million with Marcus Parfitt.

Column: Simon Gerrard on choosing the right area to live in

Good fences make good neighbours goes the saying, but fellow residents can have an impact on the enjoyment of your home. North London estate agent Simon Gerrard shares his tips for finding the perfect location.

Seven tips for creating a wellbeing boosting garden

Matt Keightley, the designer behind the Feel Good Garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, reveals how to make your own outdoor space more soothing. By Hannah Stephenson

Nine ways gardeners can be more waterwise this summer

Want to save your plants and save water? Go easy with the sprinkler and embrace these expert suggestions instead, says Hannah Stephenson

For sale: New show homes open at Highgate development

Two new show apartments have opened at a luxury development in Highgate.

Elegant cottage formerly home to renowned poet, A.E Housman, now for sale in Highgate Village

A cottage in Highgate Village where the renowned poet A.E Housman once lived is now available to buy.

Comment: A War of the Roses? The challenges of dealing with property and divorce

Trevor Abrahmsohn, MD at north London agents Glentree, writes about his encounters with divorcing couples selling the marital home

Home of the week: Handsome 5 bedroom property in Hampstead perfect for a family

On the market for the first time in many years is this attractive, substantial detached double fronted family house located in a prime location.

Fancy owning a Picasso? It’s not impossible says Belsize Village gallery owner

Emma Rice talks to Andrea Sylvester about art and how we could all potentially own a Picasso or a Chagall, if that’s what we love

Most Read