There are few skills in the garden that produce results as breathtaking as well-executed topiary.
Along the old A3 route near Petersfield in Hampshire is an incredible hedge that I have seen clipped as a dragon for a very long time. The hedge itself is at least 20 foot long and 6 foot high and makes a very impressive display. I have never stopped to take a closer look, but it looks like Buxus Sempervirens, which is a favourite choice for a topiary plant. I have also seen some fun effects cut into box hedging, such as a castle’s battlement along the top of the hedging at West Dean Gardens in West Sussex. With a little imagination, you can create (almost) anything!
Recently I visited the National Trust house and garden at Knightshayse Court in Devon. Outside the front of the house is a clipped yew hedge that features topiary hounds chasing a fox along the hedge. It is a great feature that was originally cut in the 1930s to accent the garden’s Victorian design. It is a stunning display that was amusing both children and adults when I visited.
Other popular designs with small-scale topiary are: ‘double ball’ where one stem has a lower and a high sphere of topiary, and spirals. Both are readily available in garden centres and can be a good choice if you are looking to inject some instant topiary magic to your garden.
No article that discusses the use of Buxus would be complete without information about box blight. If you are choosing to use box hedging, then you will need to keep an eye out for box blight. This is caused by fungi and most often seen in damper times of the year. Affected leaves go brown and fall off, leaving holes in the topiary. Some top tips for reducing the chance of box blight:
- Keep new plants in isolation for at least 3 weeks before planting out.
- Keep an eye on your plants for symptoms
- Don’t clip too often. While you will be keen to keep your topiary in perfect shape, over-clipping will make the foliage dense, which will restrict air movement.
- If you need to water your topiary, water the soil around it. Do not water from overhead.
- Remove and destroy immediately any affected plants.
- If you see box blight in mature plants cut out as much as you can, then destroy along with any fallen leaves.
Creating your own topiary can be great fun and produce some stunning effects. Both hedge topiary and topiary figures are a very skilled task to complete. Don’t let this stop you though! If you have a design in your mind, go for it. If not, why not try your hand at topiary by maintaining a cone or a sphere that has already been cut? Your local garden centre will be able to recommend tools for the job. Some will recommend electric shears, while some will prefer hand shears. Whatever your skill level though, there is something that is achievable in the world of topiary.