THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Top Tips For Topiary – my blog about pruning for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society, is now up on their website and ready to be absorbed by you wonderful pruners!
I’ve also written them a long piece on the Best Plants for Topiary.
Wow. I have been busy in lockdown….
And as if that isn’t enough (it is more than enough really, but somehow I’m going to force more down you…) here below are more top tips for topiary.
Bonus tips, if you like…
Go visit the EBTS website for the original post, or read on below to get the bonus round of tips on offer!
Top Tips For Topiary (Bonus Tips)
- Don’t use the hunt and peck technique – this is when you are pruning a shrub by searching for ‘bits and twigs that stick out’ at funny angles. You spot one, you snip. Spot one… snip. Spot one… This takes forever to clip a shrub. And invariably it leads to you missing loads, or giving an uneven cut. Prune steadily, machine-like… like a lathe, across the face of the shrub… and go again over any bits in exactly the same, considered manner if you missed some growth the first time around.
- Give your topiary space – make sure you have some distance between each one. The viewer then gets a chance to appreciate each piece, in contrast to the next, rather than just exclaiming “Magnificent! Look at all this topiary!” then the eye moves on to something else (like the sign for the tea shop) because it is not sure what it’s meant to focus on.
- If your boxwood is a hedge, see how thin you can make the top – start this by letting the plant grow on a batter, wider at the bottom than the top. This allows more light to hit the leaf, keeping the growth strong all the way up the hedge. Then, at the peak of the hedge, pruning it thin. Narrowing is probably a better description. How narrow can you make your hedge at the top? I love to see how tight you can cut boxwood when it gets to its full height. It then becomes truly tactile – you will endlessly want to touch it, just to see if it is really possible to be so slender and lean, each time you pass the hedge.
- Mulch in spring (preferably with home made compost) to help your plants grow well – no-brainer this, as the soil is your ally, so keep improving it. If you must use a fertiliser then a diluted seaweed solution or Top Buxus will work.
- If your boxwood flowers in spring, it won’t grow – you will need to ask a botanist why. It is just something I have noticed as I’ve gardened over the years. Maybe it is unhappy so flowers instead of growing?
- To reduce the work in your garden, prune once a year – traditionally Derby day in early June was the day to get into the garden, sharpen up the shears and prune the boxwood. But boxwood doesn’t stop growing in early June, so you then have to clip again at the end of the year to remove the second flush of leaf if you want it to look sharp for winter. To save work in the garden, best to clip your boxwood in early September.
Final Tip For Topiary?
A classic this – use good tools.
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 …
Last September when I and topiary artist (and mentor) Charlotte Molesworth ran a weekend of topiary masterclasses we had a visit from the garden writer Non Morris. You can read more about Non and her garden design work and writings here. She has written a lovely article for the February 2022 edition of The English Garden Magazine about her afternoon working with us and learning about topiary – I’m really thrilled by the piece, because she mentions not just a little of the wonderful history of Balmoral Cottage and how the garden grew, but also shares a little of how …
This Autumn I have presented another ‘Topiary Provocation’ to keen gardeners and designers. If you want to know more about topiary, the report on what we discussed and where modern topiary is going can be read by clicking the link below: Topiary Provocation Report Autumn 2021 This report is free to post on your own website or blog, just credit Modern Mint, and don’t change anything within it. Alternatively you can just share it with keen friends… or enemies? I did a similar meet-up with garden designers in spring 2021. Here is where you can read the Topiary Provocation Spring …