Topiary art can give different shapes to a shrub: animals, characters and geometric figures. The shrubs obtained after being subjected to such pruning techniques are called topiaries. Among the species best fitted to topiary, boxwood is a prime choice. It is an undemanding shrub that grows on any type of land and gets better after each pruning. After boxwood, yew is well-suited to topiary. 

Topiary art is considered a matter for specialists, although anyone can try it simply by complying with the rules of the art. Before taking action, it is important to gather the necessary tools: pruning shears, grass shears, guides and cords. In case of prolonged labour, choose the electric hedge trimmer.

Preparations for topiary 

Regardless of the topiary shape one seeks achieve, the tools must be sharp to obtain appropriate cuts and the blades should be disinfected to prevent the possible spread of disease. In addition, one must have talent, passion and patience. Pruning can be carried out during almost any season of the year, especially during a not too hot day with moderate sunshine. Just be careful to avoid pruning during severe colds. One should never rush because topiary art requires precision, as the smallest error may be irreversible.

For beginners, do not start with reasonably sized boxwood. First, try topiary on other species such as cypress, hawthorn, holly, thuja, honeysuckle and privet. You should know that there is shape pruning and maintenance pruning. For shape pruning, we can create simple shapes (ball, heart, etc…) without assistance, keeping in mind that it is easier to make curves than angles. For more complicated shapes, use an iron frame as a guide for pruning.

Achieving a topiary 

The technique known as “freehand trimming” is ideally suited to the creation of elementary shapes. For beginners or for those who want to move to more complex forms, the use of a wire frame is recommended. Some experts suggest setting up a wire frame as soon as the shrub is planted, so that it will become hidden as the plant grows. Once it is no longer visible, it’s time to prune; making sure the foliage exceeds the wire frame by approximately an inch. Step back from time to time to check the quality of the work. Other professionals prefer to set up a steel structure at the time of pruning. It only needs to be set up around the shrub while the branches that stick out will have to be removed. For more complicated shapes, we can “steer” plant growth by combining training and pruning techniques.

Once the work is completed, it is necessary to maintain the resulting shape. To do this, proceed to maintenance pruning. Its frequency depends on the shrub’s growth. Wilson’s honeysuckle, for example, grows very quickly and requires monthly prunings, while the boxwood grows much more slowly only requires two trimmings per year, in spring and September. In all cases, we must cut from top to bottom and have a skilful hand to avoid modifying the original shape. If a branch is diseased or damaged, do not hesitate to remove it with pruning shears. Use nearby branches to hide the hole formed by the cut.

Related posts:

  1. All you need to know on Boxwood
  2. Planting and maintaining boxwood

Published in Hedges by Alexander on 04 Jul 2011