Create a Simple Topiary

Topiary lends structure and formality to any planting design and makes a useful focal point. All you need to bring an overgrown specimen back into shape, or to make a cone from scratch, are some basic tools, patience and a good eye.
Side Garden With Topiary Trees and Brick Edging

Side Garden With Topiary Trees and Brick Edging

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

From: DK Books - Lawns
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When to Start: Early summer
At Its Best: All year round
Time to Complete: 1 hour

Materials Needed:

  • 1 boxwood plant (Buxus sempervirens)
  • household disinfectant
  • sharp, long-handled shears

Select a Healthy Plant

When choosing a specimen to clip into topiary, look for one with dense, healthy growth, unblemished foliage and a strong leading stem in the center.

Select Healthy Plant for Topiary

Select Healthy Plant for Topiary

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Start to Trim by Eye

Looking down on the plant, locate the central stem, which will form the top of the cone. With shears, trim around the stem to create the outline.

Trimming a Topiary Cone

Trimming a Topiary Cone

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Keep Moving Around the Plant

Don't trim the topiary in "sides" — you risk overclipping one area. Continually move around the plant, regularly taking a step back to look at the overall shape.

Plant Clipping Advice

Plant Clipping Advice

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Assess Shape From Top

When you have nearly finished, look down at the central stem to check that the outline of the cone is straight and even. Assess the shape all the way around and trim accordingly.

Assess Shape of Topiary from the Top

Assess Shape of Topiary from the Top

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Routine Care

Established topiary should be pruned once or twice a year in midsummer and early autumn. Never clip on hot, sunny days to prevent the newly exposed foliage from being scorched.

Prune Established Topiaries Twice a Year

Prune Established Topiaries Twice a Year

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Tool Choices

Creating topiary shapes is much easier if you have the right tools; always keep the blades sharp and clean. Although you can use garden shears to trim cones and simple shapes, long-handled shears are a better choice because they offer greater control. For more intricate designs, use topiary shears (Image 1).

Top Tip: Clean Cuts
Boxwood blight is a major disease of boxwood. Protect your specimens by cleaning your pruning shears between plants with a spray of household disinfectant (Image 2).

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