looking after topiary

Today I want to talk about the different types of plant to use and the best way to look after it as you shape it into something amazing.

There are two main times that you can really shape your topiary each year and for that matter any other hedging that you may have in your garden.  Clip at the end of May after any chance of frost has past (there is an old wives tale about leaving this until after Derby Day which usually falls around the last weekend in May) and around now until around the end of September. This is because it gives the new cuts time to harden off before the first frosts come towards the end of October.

You can trim any hedge in to a shape, obviously the more dense the foliage the better and that said, if the hedge is an evergreen then you can enjoy the fruits of your labour into the winter months when there amy be little else to provide any structure in the garden.

In my option the best hedging plants for topiary are the most commonly use ones, The first of these being Box or Buxus Sempervirens to be precise is the most commonly used hedging for topiary and can be highly clipped into all manner of shapes. It does though have a down side, it is susceptible to box blight. However, if you keep the plants as healthy as possible by providing everything they need then blight is normally not a problem, if they do get it then the plant should be strong enough to cope with it. Having said that, it is my belief that this can be said about all plants, strong healthy plants have more chance of serving from disease and other pests than weaker ones.

Timing when clipping Box is very much of the essence and not just when in the year, but also when during the day. I’m writing this by a pool in Burgundy, France where the temperature is around 36 degrees centigrade during the afternoon. If you cut any plant in this heat and particularly Box then the cut part of the plant is going to scorgh and die. This being the case, at the local Chateaux which have some particly fine examples of Box and Yew topiary, they don’t start the clipping until around six in the evening and cut until dark, the irrigation systems are then put on which give the plants a good soaking and reduces the temperature so it can cool before the sun rises again.

Yew or Taxus Bachata is also one of the greats for topiary and has been used to create amazing examples of the art for hundreds of years, if there is a king of the topiary plant, then this it. The only problem with it is that it is not massively fast growing, it also does not like it if the soil it is growing in is to wet. That said, what it loses in growth rate it more than makes up for in it’s density of foliage and therefore has the ability to shape very nicely indeed.

Ligustrum Japonicum is another ace topiary plant and you can see me shaping some in to a standard ball in the Earthscapes HQ garden further down this page. It can be shaped very nicely and is used to great effect when Japanese cloud pruning. It takes a good shape and is fast growing  so will normally need three or four trims in the season.

As previously said most hedging plants can be used for topiary. There are some tried and tested rules when carrying it out that can be used on all species.

  1. Before you go outside, look to your tools. Any thing that you intend to use to cut and trim the plant needs to be sharp. using blunt tools will mean that you will not shape anything properly and also make ragged cuts leading to introducing infections into the plant.
  2. Before you make your first cut stand back and look at the plant, look at its form and what shape it might want to be made into and where to cut.
  3. Use trimming oil and sterilise your tools regularly. I use a can of WD40 to oil the cutting blades and mechanisms of the tool and some Jeys fluid mixing in to a spray bottle to sterile the blade so you are not passing any infections around the plant, or even from plant to plant.
  4. Take your time and do not take to much off to quickly. You can always take more off, harder to put it back on.
  5. Have fun….

As always, if you would like some help with any aspect of your garden, get in touch to arrange a visit.