Topiary – 15 ways to use clipped evergreens in garden design

1. Create A Visual Contrast

Simple outlines, such as a cube, spheres, or cones can create focus among relaxed naturalistic planting designs or cottage garden ideas for instance, and a single piece in a sea of a wildflower garden can be a magical juxtaposition.

2. Replicate Oriental Shaping

The desire to control and manipulate the shape of plants has been featured in Japanese garden ideas throughout history. Clipped evergreens represent mountains and hills – the organic, voluptuous forms add to the tactile essence of a Japanese garden.

3. Plant A Topiary Forest

Why not go all out and create a complete topiary garden? The rich Buxus greens and a touch of variegated options with geometric forms and the occasional delightful creature, combine to perfection in this shady glade under a canopy of deciduous trees. This is a wonderful north-facing garden idea and for shady spots.

4. Use Frames For Creative Shapes

For complicated shapes, or, for example, if you need guidance creating a particular animal, you can buy a wire template that remains hidden inside the topiary. Commercial topiary frames are available in a wide range of animal and other shapes. Getting the shape right allows you to really concentrate on the plant aspect as the shape is set and you just prune to the wire.

5. Design A Decorative Topiary Hedge

For the ambitious gardener, the ultimate topiary fantasy is to create topiary shapes atop privacy hedges. Topiary doyenne and artist Charlotte Molesworth’s magical garden with its sculpted hedge adorned with the likes of peacocks and teapots, can't fail to inspire. 'If choosing to give your existing hedge added height or a punctuation mark or statement then you need to carefully select the right spot and right type of hedgerow plant. Choose one of the slower-growing plants – taxus (yew) is the very best but Ilex, carpinus, myrtus, Lauris nobilis or fagus all work well,' explains Charlotte.

6. Add Topiary In Different Shapes

Cube shapes are one of the easiest topiary shapes to do and are good for dividing different planting areas in the garden, and if you are planning to design a parterre garden. Small pebble-shaped topiary is also popular for edging paths. In this garden design by Charlotte Rowe topiary balls contrast with square box hedging. Topiary suits a repeat design and works really well if you keep things symmetrical on either side of the garden, which can also create the illusion that a space is bigger than it is.

7. Enhance Entrances With Topiary In Containers

Smartly clipped evergreens are a great choice for enhancing entrances such as gates, doorways, and porches. In winter topiary adds much-needed drama, punctuating a space when the rest of the garden has little to offer.

8. Include Topiary Among Naturalistic Planting For A Modern Look

Traditionally, topiary has been used in classical formal gardens in the form of cones, topiary balls and standards. 'But for a more modern look that contrasts sculptural forms with sweeping planting, try including topiary as a punctuation mark within a tapestry of naturalistic herbaceous perennials,' suggests Jeff Stephenson, head or horticulture at Bowles & Wyer.

9. Create Structure With Topiary

Often referred to as the bones of the garden, the evergreen structure can be the starting point for creating a garden design once the initial layout has been decided. 'We regularly include topiary in our designs to provide structure and rhythm in our planting,' says Gavin McWilliam. When combined with other evergreen trees for gardens , topiary can create a strong backbone for the garden.

10. Use Topiary To Add Winter Interest

However abundantly we might plant out backyards, the reality is that for many months of the year the garden relies on evergreens for structure and form. 'Topiary really comes into its own in the quieter months of later winter and early spring when the herbaceous planting is cut back, and the new shoots of spring are yet to appear,' says Gavin McWilliam.

11. Create A Knot Garden With Topiary

'Using sculpted evergreens is a timelessly elegant way to provide focal points and frame key views around the garden,' says garden designer Richard Miers. 'I use topiary and evergreen plants and hedges as the backbone to my designs. It can provide the framework upon which other elements of the garden are then subsequently applied,' he adds.

12. Introduce Cloud Pruned Topiary

'Cloud pruning' is where continuous mounds of shrubs are pruned into softly domed topiary balls that look like undulating clouds. These are interspersed with other plants such as low grasses, ground cover and even small perennials. 'We use ‘cloud pruning’ in many of our gardens, small and large,' says designer Charlotte Rowe. 'This style of planting provides structure while still allowing seasonal interest and color,' she adds.

13. Add Height With Clipped Specimens

Evergreen trees can be neatly clipped like the ones above into 'lollipop' shapes to create height, screening and eye-catching shapes on a garden's boundary – or planted to create a division between one area of your backyard and another.

14. Break Up A Lawn With Topiary

Topiary needn't be in a flower bed or lining a path – it can be used to make a large expanse of grass more interesting. Formal gardens of historical palaces, such as Henry VIII's Hampton Court Palace, often feature large topiary dotted across lawns, creating grandeur and structure. Of course, at home, you can create the same effect on a much smaller scale.

15. Frame A View With Topiary

Think of topiary as you would yard art ideas. Use them to draw attention to a particular area of the garden, for symmetry to adorn an entrance, delineate pathways and junctions, frame a vista, or emphasize the geometry of a design.

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