Which are the Best Topiary Trees?

Whether you are creating topiary trees from scratch or you are using a tree that has been ready trained from the nursery, you need to know which are the best trees for topiary and the easiest to shape and maintain.

Typically topiary trees are evergreen trees as they will remain a permanent feature in the garden all year round and won’t end up shedding their leaves during autumn and winter. The box tree is often used for topiary due to it’s small leaves which grow densely to create a thick tight growth when clipped.box-topiary-trees

If you are training over a frame then you will need a tree or woody shrub that will lend itself to vining but with thick dense foliage.

The yew tree can also be used as a topiary tree as it is a very structured tree – it is ideal as a garden boundary owing to its density and can be easily shaped to produce topiary designs in the garden.

See right: Hardy Buxus (Box Tree) Topiary PyramidHardy Buxus (Box Tree) Topiary Pyramid

Aside from the box tree and the yew tree you can use privet, holly and Lonicera Nitilda for topiary and hedging.

Topiary Styles

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.

The Best Plants for Topiary

There are a few different types of plants for topiary that are most commonly used and that includes shrubs, hedges, vines and even herb bushes. The plant you choose will determine the density of your topiary and the overall look.

Topiary Shrubs

Shrubs can be trained into topiaries if they have thick, dense foliage and small leaves and that includes plants such as the boxwood, holly, laurel, and privet. If you are looking for something that will stay fairly small and compact without too much trimming then Boxwood is among the most popular, whereas Laurel and privet have larger leaves and are great for larger-scale topiaries.

Topiary Hedges

If you are being adventurous with your topiary skills, then hedges are ideal if you need are going for statuesque or geometrical shapes because of their density. Obelisks, pyramids, cylinders, spirals, and cones are all easy shapes and designs to accomplish with taller shrubs with dense leaf or needle structures and yew, hollies, and Alberta spruce are great recommendations for taller formation topiaries, with the yew being ideal owing to its naturally cylindrical shape. The hollies are very pliable and can be trimmed into almost any shape, whilst the Alberta spruce is great for creating spiral formations.


Topiary Herb Bushes

Herbs, surprisingly enough, can be used in small topiary designs and are ideal as gifts for others. Not only do these topiary plants smell fragrant, but they also tend to look more delicate and pretty. Herbs that are small and dense are particularly desirable – we love Rosemary, Thyme and Lavender, all of which have little flowers and a lovely pungent aroma.

Topiary Vines

Vines are incredibly flexible when used in topiary and can be used in almost any designs simple and complex. By using a frame, or in fact any shape of object you can achieve the kind of shapes that you want to achieve with vines. They will fix themselves on to almost any surface. It’s best not to choose the more invasive form of ivy instead go for the non-invasive such as the Lady Frances, Duckfoot or Gold Child.

Topiarists, whether they are professional or enthusiasts, have the incredible capability to create endless forms, shapes, designs, geometric forms, and animal figures, to just about anything they can think of. The designs and creations that can be clipped and trained using plants, trees, and hedges are endless.