Clipping plants into shape is favourite garden task, I like how it brings structure into the garden, even better if there’s some loose, wild planting nearby that makes a real contrasting shape. It’s traditionally done on Derby Day, the first week in June, though I find needs doing more often, to encourage a firm, crisp outline.
This clipping, properly known as topiary, is best done on evergreen shrubs, or small trees, that have small leaves. Box [Buxus sempervirens] or Yew [Taxus bacatta] are the favourites for this, but there are plenty of other types that can be used.
Fast growing privet [Ligustrum], doesn’t work so well because of its’ loose shape and it needs clipping often, so you have to work hard to get that crisp, dense outline that you get easily with Yew and Box. Although fast-growing, Lonicera nitida works well, it just takes more work to stop it’s constant attempt to grow in a horizontal sprawl, but it’s a useful alternative if your garden is plagued by box-blight.
Box plants are best trimmed on a cloudy day, or the sun will turn the the cut edges of leaves crisp and brown.
There’s a lot of ambitious topiary around, and it’s lovely to admire, but cubes and balls do the trick in most gardens, especially if they’re planted with grasses or perennials that have a contrasting shape. The picture at Bury Court [at the top of the page] is my favourite way of including topiary, in fact I had this as a screen-saver for ages.
What do you think, does topiary do it for you?
all photos: Jill Anderson