Topiary is the term used to describe the pruning of plants to create bold shapes that have been popular since Roman times.
These can be simple balls, cubes or pyramids, or complex ‘lollipops’, even chickens. Smaller topiary looks great in containers or borders, where clipped evergreens make a sharp contrast to colourful informal planting, in pairs to flank paths or gates, and as focal points.
Box and yew are classic topiary plants: small-leaved, they respond well to shaping and are neither too fast- nor too slow-growing. Box blight and box tree caterpillar is increasingly prevalent: avoid to some extent by not crowding or overfeeding plants. Ilex crenata makes a good alternative if either is rife near you. Privet is tough and easy to grow, but common privet needs frequent clipping to keep in shape. Keep topiary plants looking good with a spring mulch and feed in moderation – too much means lots more growth to trim.
Discover how to trim topiary, here a topiary spiral, below.
Use sharp tools
Choose the right tools: hand shears suit small plants and powered trimmers are best for big ones. Secateurs are best for plants such as holly, so that you don’t slice into individual leaves. Keep blades very sharp to avoid bruising the cut stems, which would turn brown.
Other plants to clip