Topiary Landscaping Ideas

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August 24, 2006

Topiary DesignBy definition, topiary is the art of training, cutting, and trimming plants into ornamental designs. The word itself is from the Latin word, topia, meaning "ornamental gardening." Invented by gardeners as early as the 1st century AD, topiary art later became the gardening rage in the Middle Ages.


It was popular throughout the Italian Renaissance, and revived again in 17th century France, where gardeners are said to have taken the art "over the top" with their elaborate, and often whimsical designs. Most design trends have a tendency to repeat themselves. This time it took a few dozen decades, but topiary design is making a comeback.

Topiary Types

There are two basic types of topiaries: slow-growing shrubs and fast-growing sphagnums. The slow-growing shrubs must grow within a frame, often made from mesh or chicken wire. As shrubs grow they are clipped, pruned or tied to fit the shape of the frame. This type of topiary can take many years to become fully formed and is often seen in formal, well-established gardens.

Sphagnum topiary, on the other hand, grows at a much faster rate-usually within three to four months. For this type of topiary an open "skin" or a frame is used. Sometimes the frame will come in halves that are fitted together after planting. The frames are stuffed (or come pre-stuffed) with sphagnum moss and plants are added to the moss to create a pre-determined shape as they grow. For most gardeners, sphagnum topiaries offer an easy way to experiment with topiary design without having to invest large amounts of time before seeing the results.


Framing Your Design

With topiary design, to me the fun is in the frame. Designs can range from the classical and formal poms, spirals and cones, to the whimsical and funny monkeys, dinosaurs and bumble bees. Topiary design is only limited by your imagination. You can make your own form using supports like mesh or chicken wire, or purchase ready-made frames or complete kits. If you have an unusual idea for a frame, several companies offer custom designs.

Without realizing it, you may already posses a topiary frame. If you decorate your yard during the holidays with deer or spiral Christmas trees, they will double as topiary frames during the growing season. Try covering them with a fast-growing vine, or in the case of deer, you can just stuff the hollow frames with sphagnum moss and add plants. When cool weather strikes, the foliage will die back and your yard decor will already be in place.


For those brave enough, you can cut "windows" and "doors" or other geometric shapes into already existing privet hedges.

Keeping Your Design Alive

There are plenty of books and websites offering step-by-step advice on starting topiary projects, but here are some basic tips:

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September 4, 2018

I live in the city and I just wanted to try something different to help our city of Paterson New Jersey look a little better. Our city may not be the most beautiful, but having something cool to look at may take our minds off the ugliness.

Trimming Shrubs Creatively - elephant

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