Topiary : the art of taming Nature no 5.

Julius Caesar probably strolled in villa gardens filled with it. Henry VIII may well have wooed one, (or more), of his wives behind hedges of it. Louis XIV made it into a stunning art form. The Dutch excelled at it.

Topiary at Versailles

Topiary at Versailles

Topiary : the art of trimming and training plants to create geometric or natural shapes , often called ” the art of living sculptures”.

Topiary in a Flemish garden in Mechelen.

Topiary in a Flemish garden in Mechelen.

Cultivation : For year round structure, yew (Taxus baccata) and box (Buxus sempervirens) are the usual evergreens used, although other species such as privet and holly can be  suitable too. If you are establishing a box-hedged garden, keep an eye out for any bare or brown patches which might be the result of a fungal disease, box blight (Cylindrocladium buxicola), and destroy affected plants. Pruning in northern hemispheres is generally done in early June and then again in  Autumn, so that new growth is not damaged by frost. After clipping, feed and mulch. Box is very easy to propagate from cuttings.

Stunningly clipped topiary

Stunningly clipped topiary

Topiary

Topiary : evergreen structure for a front drive

Balls, pyramids and cubes are the best subjects to begin with. Topiary frames are available to help with more complex shapes, such as animals, once you feel confident.

Topiary  spiral in terracotta pot

Topiary spiral in terracotta pot creates impact.

Historically,Topiary has been used as Mazes and Labyrinths, Parterres and Knot gardens, sometimes infilled with coloured gravel or with herbs or flowers.

Parterre garden  infilled with flowers, with box balls

Parterre garden infilled with flowers, with box balls behind.

Parterre at Vaux-le-Vicomte

Classic parterre  de broderie at Vaux-le-Vicomte

 Although it may seem a bit traditional and staid,

Topiary at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham

Topiary at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham

and the two specimens either side of the front door may be a cliché.

Topiary

Topiary to frame an entrance and emphasise symmetry.

Yet, it does brings year-round structure and interest.

Topiary spirals in a front garden

Topiary spirals in a front garden

and a sense of fun.

Topiary

 To create a more modern look, mass box balls for maximum impact,

Structure and formality in a modern garden using box balls

Structure and formality in a modern garden using box balls

plant it in swirls instead of the usual straight lines,

Topiary

plant blocks to create a contemporary clean look,

Topiary

or mix it with modern planting such as grasses.

Design by Diarmuid Gavin

Design by Diarmuid Gavin

Certainly in winter, topiary is great for giving structure to a garden.

13 thoughts on “Topiary : the art of taming Nature no 5.

  1. This is a fabulous post! I love topiary and have lots on my garden- although none of it would match the perfection of these gorgeous photos. I thought the picture of the driveway was stunning! And I loved the mass planting of topiary balls.
    Always inspirational, I have missed you appearing in my ‘reader’, so have clicked to ‘follow’ you again.
    Karen.

    Like

    • Thanks so much Karen … good to see you back. I’ve been travelling a lot and haven’t kept up with my own reading and Comments!
      I love topiary too … though have to be in the right frame of mind when it comes to clipping it. The driveway is a favourite of mine!

      Liked by 1 person

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