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.
I compiled a list of books using Bookshop, a new online shop to rival Amazon. I like it because it is supporting independent bookshops, helping them out by giving them an audience whilst their own physical premises are closed. The books I’ve listed are not all about gardening, but worth a look through and an order anyway as they are wonderful and have seen me through lockdown – and I hope they bring you some joy too! Check out the books I recommend here.
Hedge laying is something I’ve been meaning to try for a long time, a type of pruning that can bring huge benefits to wildlife as well as looking amazing. So last year I went down to Dorset/the edge of Devon, to spend a day learning to lay a hedge. Hedge laying is a way of building a stock proof fence. It does take time, and some practical and physical skill, but once you get the hang of it I would think developing your instinct about what to prune and where to lay the branches is where the true proficiency arises… …
Fernando Caruncho is a garden designer from Madrid. I am always inspired by his work – his clean lines, ‘green architecture’, sense of proportion, balance and minimal plant palette. This seems to bring out the atmosphere of the garden, the space, intensifying its… spirit. I have written about him a lot – here, for example… and here. But recently I have discovered a few more interviews with him, so thought I would link to his words as he always has something interesting to say, the opposite of prosaic. This first interview from the Society of Garden Designers will give you …