Topiary adds real style to a patio or deck, and making your own is easy and rewarding.
When to Start: Early summer
At Its Best: All year round
Time to Complete: 3 hours
Plant your boxwood in a large container filled with soil-based potting mix. To create a spiral shape with a ball on top, start off by roughly trimming your plant into a cone. If you want to create a ball finial on top, leave the upper portion unclipped at this stage.
You may be able to create the outline by eye, but if you want a guide, place a loose spiral of wire around the cone, and use shears to clip in between, cutting back to the central stem. Use clippers for woodier stems. Don't rush, and stand back regularly to check how the shape is developing.
Once you have a rough spiral, start creating the final shape. Use your shears to gradually round off the edges to give the appearance of a tube winding around the central stem. To keep the shape in proportion, and to make it look solid and stable, taper the spiral so that it is thinner at the top and thicker at the base. Regularly inspect your work as you go, tweaking as necessary.
Either leave the spiral as it is, or trim a ball on top. When clipping a ball, try using a wire template (see Tip, below) to create a regular shape. Move the template around the ball to check that it's spherical. If you make a mistake, leave the area to regrow, then try again.
To make a circular template, wrap a piece of thick wire around something round and solid, and about the same size as the ball you wish to create; a paint can would be ideal. Then twist the ends together to keep the shape.
Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010