It’s not just box and yew that make good topiary – holly is ideal for trimming into different shapes, along with lots of other evergreen shrubs and slow-growing trees.
The key to success is to trim topiary a couple of times a year to prevent any new growth becoming too leggy and spoiling the shape. All growth should be cut in spring, then again in midsummer, to encourage buds lower down the stems to grow into sideshoots, providing a dense covering of foliage.
When pruning evergreens, take care not to cut into foliage, as the wounds will turn brown and look unsightly for a long time. Sharp secateurs are the best tool for the job, allowing for precise cuts.
Don’t forget, birds may be taking advantage of evergreens at this time of year to build nests. Check carefully and delay pruning if you see any sign of nesting. Wait until any young birds have left the nest before pruning – it won’t harm the plant to leave it a few extra weeks.
Discover how to prune holly topiary in this quick guide.
You Will Need
Check the overall shape of your topiary shrub before you start, to make sure it’s balanced and even. If it’s looking a bit lopsided, then one part of the plant is probably growing more strongly than the other.
Use sharp secateurs to cut back the vigorous growth at the top of the plant first. Cut all shoots back to just above the point they grew from last year. Leave two or three leaves at the bottom of pruned shoots to maintain leaf coverage.
On variegated holly, look out for reverted shoots and prune them out entirely, cutting at the point where they sprout from the main stem. Reverted shoots have either pale foliage, lacking green chlorophyll (as pictured), or entirely green foliage.
Snip back the weaker shoots on the head of the topiary to encourage stronger growth to sprout from buds further down the stems. This will help to thicken up the crown of the topiary, creating a strong and clear geometric shape.
Stand back and review your handiwork. Go back and snip off any shoots that are spoiling the overall shape of the crown. Check the main stem regularly for unwanted buds or suckers and remove before they grow and take energy away from the crown of the plant.
Other shrubs to prune in spring and summer
- Bay (Laurus nobilis)
- Box (Buxus sempervirens)
- Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)
- Camellia (after flowering)
- Evergreen euonymus
- Photinia ‘Red Robin’
- Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica)
- Privet (Ligustrum)