The simplest forms of topiary for any beginner to start with are the topiary styles you see most frequently – including topiary balls, topiary pyramids, domes, cones, spirals and cubes. Geometric shapes look great in a garden of any size – and that includes areas with very limited space.
Many enthusiasts want to move on to something more exotic and grow their shrubs and hedging plants to form animal and bird shapes. The most traditional topiary subject is the peacock, but it is possible to create topiary sculptures in many different styles.
Shrubs can be trimmed freehand into many of these designs or if you feel you need the help – a frame can be used as a cutting and training guide.
Designing Topiary Balls, Topiary Cones and Topiary Spirals
Even topiary balls can be an awe-inspiring work of art and can often leave us wondering how they have been created so perfectly. The best way to clip shrubs into perfect spheres is by forming a circular frame with a piece of garden wire slightly smaller in size than the plant being trimmed. The ball shape is then created by moving the wire circle around the plant and using it as a guide for cutting.
Alternatively, for a cone shape, use three garden canes to form a wigwam shape around the plant, securing the top with twine and the sides with garden wire. Use this frame as a guide and start clipping from the centre top and work downwards around the plant.
If you are feeling a little adventurous you can move on from the topiary cone to the topiary spiral. Simply mark out the spiral down the cone with twine and working from the top downwards, clip the foliage back to the centre of the shrub before trimming both the lower and upper edges of the curve. Don’t forget to stand back and view your work from all angles as you go along.
Other Topiary Shapes
Birds and animal shapes can be cut into a single shrub or created from several hedging plants and if you are feeling confident are best achieved using freehand. There are frames available which are ready-made in differing shapes and sizes but we feel like that might be taking the easy way out! Get creative with the pruning shears!
Small Topiary Plants
There are a number of ways to train and prune a small topiary plant, but one of the best ways is to use a frame packed with sphagnum moss. Keep the moss moist and gradually clip the plant as it goes towards and through the frame. This is ideal if you would eventually like to turn the plant into something bigger.