Topiary through the times
The art of topiary may seem quintessentially English, but did you know it actually dates back to Roman times?
Topiary is a skill that’s been shaped through the ages in countries across the world, from the corners of cottage gardens to ancient temples in Japan. As part of our #toptopiary month, we’ve dug up some fun facts about its horticultural history and how topiary has shaped how we garden today:
- You may know what topiary is, but do you know what the word means? It’s taken from the Latin word for an ornamental gardener, Topiarus, a creator of ‘topia’ or places.
- Topiary plants are always evergreen, and must have dense and compact growth.
- Traditional topiary shapes are usually geometric – boxes, balls, cubes, pyramids, cones and spirals – but you may also find life-sized sculptures of people and animals too.
- The common garden Privet hedge is actually a very simple form of topiary, with the hedge usually trimmed to create boundaries and screening.
- Traditional topiary is highly skilled, relying on nothing but a good pair of shears, a steady hand and lots of patience.
- Other forms of topiary get a helping hand from the use of shaped wire cages or ‘training frames’ over which the plant is encouraged to grow, giving the gardener a permanent trimming guide for ease and the ability to create limitless shapes and sizes of living sculpture.
- In Japan, topiary typically takes the form of cloud-pruning or Niwaki (garden tree) – a highly-prized art form and a skilled technique which takes years to perfect, where tree growth is trimmed into the shapes of clouds. You may be more familiar with its miniature form, the art of Bonsai.
- Walt Disney was an avid topiary lover. In his parks and resorts you’ll find his beloved cartoon characters come to life in full colour shrubbery form, which have been an imaginative feature since the early 60s.
- The most interactive form of topiary is the maze, a winding network of paths surrounded by tall, sculpted bushes and trees, usually Yew. Popular in Europe in the 1500s, mazes often had a topiary sculpture in the middle to let the visitor know they had solved the puzzle.
So there you have it, a potted and trimmed fun fact history lesson in topiary. Add some instant interest to your garden with our selection of ready-grown and shaped topiary plants. Or have a go yourself, by choosing a pot-grown specimen like this Privet that you can trim to create your masterpiece.
If this has inspired you, don’t forget to enter our competition; we’re giving away two sets of topiary trimmers and two £25 vouchers to spend on your dream topiary plant. Visit the Best4hedging Facebook page for more info.
Need advice on what to buy for your topiary garden? We’re always happy to help.