Garden topiary

This page and its linked pages are in development. More pictures over the years to follow.

Box topiary
New box cuttings in between two much older specimens

Box clipping around the birdbath

1. Birdbath box

The birdbath was installed as part of the summerhouse project. After allowing a year for weeds to be cleared (mainly ground elder and violets) 50 box saplings were planted to make four enclosed shapes between the existing variegated box shapes and box buxus sempervirens balls that have been in place for over 20 years. Scottish pebbles were laid to offset the box.

It will be a few years before the shapes are well defined. Eventually there will be a pebbled cross left between the box shapes, with the bird bath at the centre.

Clipping is a little tricky, trying to keep the small leaves out of the pebbles. I settled on laying down a couple of towels around the bushes, and lifting after each side is clipped.

Box topiary
Box square in the centre of the vegetable plot.

Box in the potager

2. The potager

We do not grow a lot of vegetables, but do have a small square (about 5 x 5 yards) in which we usually grow rhubarb, mint, courgettes, beans, rosemary, sage, leeks and lettuce. In the centre of this potager is a clipped box topiary form. the centrepiece is ordinary buxus sempervirens, and the triangular corners are the smaller suffruticosa - 3 bushes to each corner. For some reason the centre grows with a yellow leaf, but this turns green as it ages. Some tight clipping is needed to keep the shape, particularly the corners which do not have a lot of strentgth in their stems.


Clipped yew topiary
Yew 'bird' (a loose definition) clipped to shape over many years

Yew bird

3. Yew bird

The yew bird was planted as a small twig well over 25 years ago. For a year it was left to grow straggly shoots, which were then tied to a rudimentary frame made from bamboo canes at angles. Its shape gradually developed into what is there today, and its tail is still developing and changing. It doesn't really have the shape of a bird, with a large circle in the centre for no particular reason other than it seemed the right shape to clip. Normally it would have a privet hedge behind it as a backdrop, but this was replanted in 2014 and has only reached a couple of feet high as yet - it will be over six foot in about five years time.

Irish yew topiary
A tall (fastigiate) Irish yew, clipped back and being shaped into a bird with fanned tail

Irish Yew

4. Irish Yew

An Irish yew was planted as a young plant at a similar time to the yew bird. As both grew it became clear that they were a little close together, so the Irish yew was bent backwards on a frame to keep it clear of the yew bird's nose. It continued to grow and bush out until I cut into it quite severely last year, with the idea of turning it into another bird. A fan tail is being developed, and one corner is being allowed to grow and bent to form a head and beak. Some imagination is necessary until the shape bushes out more.

Beech spiral topiary
Beech tree trained and clipped into a spiral

Beech spiral

Beech spiral topiary
Beech tree trained and clipped into a spiral

Beech spiral in May

5. Beech spiral

A young beech tree was in the garden when we arrived in 1986. Over the years it has been allowed to double in size, but has also been trained and clipped in a spiral. This has been achieved by cutting out some stems, tying others together, and clipping the new growth to shape once a year in late June or early July. The top of the spiral is quite challenging, balancing on step ladders with a long pole hedgetrimmer. Underneath in this picture you can see clipped box, golden privet and berberis.

Box cartwheel topiary
A cartwheel of variegated box planted on a former rose bed.

Variegated box cartwheel

6. Cartwheel

The cartwheel was started in 2004 with small cuttings of variegated box which had been taken from the two parent bushes shown in number 1 above. In its centre is a prunus nigra, and the four quarters have been filled with various plants. Currently they host four pots of lavender, which does not grow well in our heavy clay soil - hence the pots.

Box topiary
Box balls planted 2013, spirals 10 years old, privet 30 years

Box topiary - front

Box topiary
Box balls planted 2013, spirals 10 years old, privet 30 years

Box topiary - front

7. Front garden

Topiary clipping season. The front garden box edging and box spheres were planted two years ago (2013) when the driveway was laid, and is beginning to shape up.