Known as topiary, hedge trimming is an art that gives shrubs a particular shape. The sophisticated models offer more complex shapes: people, animals, spiral rotating on a tree trunk … The shrubs that are best suited to this art are yew or boxwood with dense foliage and small leaves. To maintain the desired shape, maintenance and pruning must be regularly carried out.

If the simplest type of pruning is to produce a geometric shape like a ball, a cube, a pyramid or a cylinder, the most sophisticated techniques can come in the form of embroidery, as can be seen in the gardens of some castles. The completion of these works requires five years from planting, the time for plants to develop their foliage.

Discover the art of topiary or hedge trimming

Originally from ancient Rome, the topiary art consists of sculpting living plants. The plants adapted to pruning are evergreen plants that are characterized by persistent foliage, a compact growth and small leaves. The most widely used species is the boxwood thanks to its ability to adapt to any terrain, regardless of whether they are calcareous, clay or damp. It is also an evergreen shrub of which the leaf is particularly resistant and that does not suffer from pruning. Boxwood has the reputation of being able to live 1000 years, which is why it was the symbol of longevity for the Gauls.

Knowing the species suited to topiary art

If the plants that are best suited to this art are boxwood and yew, there are several species that may also be used provided they adapt to environmental conditions. Boxwood is known for its strong ability to adapt to pruning, producing even more vigorous regrowth. It is also sought for the pleasant scent it gives off in periods of heat. The pruning of boxwood is carried out in spring and fall along with a supply of fertilizer and anti-mite product in March. Holly has a long lifespan and has the advantage of having a maximum height of 5 feet (1.50 meters). Recommended for creating beautiful hedges, holly is to be planted on non-calcareous ground in spring or fall. A fast-growing and resistant species, yew is also grown in spring and fall but avoid putting it on a soil that is either too damp or too dry. To decorate a metal structure, suitable species include ivy, green beech, false cypress, or Artemisia. The use of lavender or santolina offers the combined advantage of having a wonderfully coloured bush and the ability to shape into a geometric shape with ease.

Mastering the art of topiary

To master the pruning technique, there are a number of basic rules to follow. Shape pruning is designed to produce the desired shape. It is done manually with shears. Using a wire or iron frame allows you to perform the task safely. Just install it properly around the plant and cut off the leaves that emerge from the structure. Maintenance pruning is done from top to bottom and is designed to preserve the form obtained during shape pruning. Generally performed in the spring and in September, it is carried out based on the species used. Thus, if the boxwood’s annual maintenance consists of 2 trimmings, the honeysuckle can require 3 and yew is limited to one annual pruning. The maintenance of ball-shaped topiaries starts at the top and ends at the bottom, by conducting small surface prunings. For cone-shaped topiaries, pruning is performed from the bottom to the top, by working on small surfaces as well. Border hedges are trimmed by starting from the sides and working upwards. Rejuvenation pruning is intended to repair a plant by lopping off its damaged branches with pruning shears and filling the empty space formed by the procedure. If the starting shape is strongly affected, it is recommended to carry out an in-depth pruning to recover the original shape, even it can only be done crudely. The silhouette’s refinement is a gradual process that extends over the following two years.

Tips for a successful topiary

In short, it is possible to force a plant to develop according to an imposed shape. The technique consists of combining pruning with intensive training operations requiring mobile stakes and a frame to be used as a template. The use of hand shears, which have short and sharp blades, allows for precise cuts. It is recommended to thoroughly disinfect the blades to limit the possible spread of disease. Pruning hedges with style is another way to develop your artistic talents in a friendly environment.

Related posts:

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  2. Mastering the pruning of hedges
  3. All you need to know on Boxwood
  4. Topiary art: from Antiquity to today
  5. Hedges

Published in Hedges by Alexander on 06 Jul 2011