THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Easy topiary for a beginner to start with?
Here are the two shapes you should learn to make first….
1 – Balls
2 – Cones
Even wonky cones like in this photo!
(With thanks to the European Boxwood And Topiary Society (EBTS) for most of the photos in this blog post. Please do check out the amazing work they do researching ways to stop Boxwood Caterpillar!)
Easy Topiary Shapes – Balls & Cones
By starting your topiary making with balls and cones, you make your life easy. They are simple shapes, but they are also strong, effective templates for more original ideas.
Master these and you can develop anything in your garden!
For example, cones can become:
- Chimney stacks
- Wedding Cakes
- Square plinths, with figures on the top
- Or even Mexican Gods!
Well-pruned God. Easy Topiary Yes?!!?
A cone gives you a great starting point for the weird and wonderful topiary in your garden, because you get height and width. The height allows you to play, to make something that reaches up and helps draw your eyes to the skies…
The width of a cone (certainly having width at the base of the plant) allows you to scale your design as you go up the plant – look again at the Mexican God figure above, it is built on several levels:
- It starts at the bottom with a squared off plinth. Sitting on a wide base gives it a formality, as well as being a nod to us that this is meant to be figurative, nothing less than a piece of art.
- Next up, above the plinth, is originally the bottom of a cone shape, but instead of keeping this area a cone they have pruned to make this beautiful ‘marshmallow’ design with an added twirl.
Was The Mexican God Topiary Really Just A Cone?
You can tell the figure was originally a cone because from the base it tapers up, narrowing at the head. The arms of course bulge out, giving the design an extended form and bringing an extra dimension of fun to the topiary but that basic shape was a cone, the easy topiary template to start from.
You need a good eye to transform the cone into this, but also you need time.
Time is so so important!
You are working in 4-D, thinking ahead 6 months, 12 months, 2 or even 5 years. The wonderful snap upwards in the right elbow of the Mexican God topiary’s arm could well have taken a few years to develop – the basic thrust of that shape back upwards at the elbow could have been cut and angled early on, from the simple cone, but the character and movement in the arm needs time to develop.
The branch (branches?) grow and thicken and improve with each years clipping. The softness and roundness in the bicep improves each time it comes under the shears, as does the accentuation of that lower arm going back up to the sky.
Patience and regular clipping. So important in making topiary.
Time? I Don’t Have Time!
Ok ok! Not a lot I can do about that, other than suggest you start with the easy topiary shapes – the ball and the cone.
Then if, for example, it turns out the cone is shaping up well and looking healthy, you may find the time and wish to go ahead and be a little more imaginative in the topiary you make.
Start today anyway, and explore that sense of humour of yours to create your own piece of topiary – either figurative like the Mexican God or perhaps even something more organic.
But remember, easy topiary is best started with the simple template of a ball or a cone.
Guanock House needs a trainee topiary artist! Some of you may know it as the first home and garden of designer Arne Maynard, but is now owned and maintained by Michael Coleman and his wife Michelle. They offer meditation workshops and retreats there and it is as beautiful a house and garden as you could wish to visit. They called me in last Autumn to help shape up some of the topiary as it was all getting out of hand, but what it really needs is someone with a steady hand and lots of patience to take over the clipping …
Here are some photos of work I have been doing at the garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent. Snow and ice brings out the depth of the different planes and angles carved into the boxwood. A garden has to look beautiful in winter – and topiary (green architecture) helps do that! For more topiary pictures, click here.
I am an experienced teacher of topiary and pruning, running workshops in the topiary garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent, as well as for The English Gardening School and The European Boxwood And Topiary Society. So if you are a keen gardener, a garden club, a group of friends who want to know more or even an absolute beginner who has been bitten by the gardening bug, then do contact me about what you might like to learn. What a laugh we are having in this workshop session I ran for a group of friends in Essex… Many people employ …