A Topiary Calendar – When To Prune

When do you prune? Below are a few pointers on when you need to think about your topiary and hedges this year, so you can make sure you clip at the best time and not waste any effort doing work you don’t need to do…

January & February

Roses, fruit trees and wisteria is where the focus lies.

Yes, it is cold and the work can be unpleasant because you are often stood on a ladder with your secateurs, barely moving enough to warm the body, but get these jobs done well, with care, and you can enjoy the fruits and flowers of your labour later in the year.


How do you prune fruit trees?

What works best for pruning wisteria?

wisteria pruning

If you have boxwood hedges left unclipped, now is a good time to do them too. As you have the chance to clip them well…

snow topiary

I tend not to clip yew hedges and topiaries at this time of year, as they can brown off – more from a cold wind, I think.

(To confuse things, I also know gardeners who do the opposite, and won’t clip boxwood in winter but will clip yew all the year round. Gardening is nuanced and weird, but the lesson is LOOK at what your garden needs and the climate is telling you can be done.

Unhelpful advice? Yes. But looking is a skill that comes with practise and is so important for the garden…)

March & April

I do a lot of restoration work now, especially early March – so hard pruning that exposes bare wood. This is just about before the birds start nesting, and I am very careful looking inside a shrub or a piece that is to become a topiary.

I do it now so that you get as much sunlight on the bare wood as possible through the year, as sap rises. This gives it the best chance of leafing up again. Cut hard in the Autumn, and you are looking at a long winter of brown branches…

Hard prune restoration work… not the topiary you normally see on Instagram!

This is normal for topiary to look this way when starting. Don’t panic. If you have the right plant, it grows back.

Got to be patient though!

Also In March…

Check for the boxwood caterpillar… a pest with no natural predators in the UK and that will, in a matter of days, defoliate your boxwood plants. You need to check your boxwood hedges and shrubs as the weather warms up, and take action fast.

More details and photos here.

May Through To September

The pruning season – some people love their hedges and topiary to look clipped and formal all year round, so start clipping early. I prefer to clip from late August, as then the regrowth is minimal and you only have to cut once a year.

Massive time-saver!

But it really is up to you – consider time, effort, whether you wish to upset nesting birds by pruning in spring, and finally the look you want from your green architecture. That will guide you on how often to cut during the growing season.

But for me, later in the year is better.

Also, if you do have the boxwood caterpillar, keep them at bay by spraying or picking them off every 6 weeks from when you first see them emerge in March (or early April if the weather is colder.)

October To December

Final pruning of yew in October, as well as bay, pittosporum, rhamnus, myrtle and any clipped plants you have from Mediterranean or Californian climes.

Plant trees. There are two options I can offer you with this – either get someone else to do the digging for you by donating £6 per tree at Trees For Life.

Or contact me to work out what you need to add to your garden, and the benefits it would bring. Autumn 2021 I planted an orchard of magnolia for a new client.

I cannot wait for it to grow and flower!

Contact me to discuss any topiary or pruning you need


Selection Of Topiary Videos To Help You Clip

Over the last two years I have been involved with a couple of projects that have ended up being recorded, then placed on Youtube or Instagram. I’m hoping they will be useful to you, so I have decided this morning to pop them together in one handy blog post so that you can bookmark the page and revisit when you need some inspiration for your topiary. See below then, a few videos about topiary I have recently been involved with… Garden Masterclass – Provocations of a Modern Topiarist Transforming Topiary Topiary Teacher Put On The Spot In the above …



Mark Zlotsky – Topiary Tango In New York

Mark Zlotsky is an artist based in New York, and today I just wanted to share his project ‘Topiary Tango’. In his introduction to the project he talks of topiary being a forgiving art, which I love and is soooooo true…..! For proof, just take a look at some projects I have made with a sharp pair of shears, a hedgetrimmer and a pruning saw. Do check out Mark Zlotsky’s project, because although his interest began by looking at topiary through the prism of architecture and the relationship of one building to another, he touches directly onto a way of …



Gardenista Interview – I Talk About Modern Topiary

Gardenista, the online magazine about gardens and design, have interviewed me about topiary. The article is called ‘Rethinking Topiary: A Garden Tradition Loosened Up’ and was published this morning. Written by the excellent garden writer Clare Coulson, I share some thoughts on using deciduous plants, how to clip (name-dropping Anne Lamott and her book on writing at one stage… oh, how I wander off subject sometimes!) and how to improve topiary by what you plant around it. Do take a look at the article in Gardenista. Or for more about my topiary work, check out the topiary page.