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 am running a ‘Topiary Provocation’ for garden designers, via Zoom, over the next few weeks. Dates are: Tuesday 23rd March, 10am Wednesday 24th March 7.30pm Thursday 8th April, 7.30pm The ‘provocation’ is for garden designers anywhere in the world, is free to join and will last about 45 minutes. Places are limited to 12 per session, as I want to make sure we can share ideas about topiary and how it can be used (and managed) in a modern garden – especially if skill level and maintenance time is low. I hope that I can provoke a discussion around …
A talk by the team at Waltham Place is being given on April 14th 2021, at 2.15pm. Tickets are free and it is via Zoom. Get Your Free Ticket I am hosting, the talk is set up by the European Boxwood & Topiary Society and it promises to be an extraordinary hour looking at one of my absolute favourite gardens of all time. (Designed by one of my favourite garden writer’s….) Brilliant topiary and a philosophy of gardening that puts wildlife first, I absolutely cannot wait for this talk… do join in and book your free ticket. Get A Waltham …
Alternatives to boxwood are hard to come by – nothing has the small, easy to clip, reflective leaf of a boxwood shrub. But as we reach April and the boxwood caterpillar begins to wake up, hungry to defoliate our boxwood topiaries and hedges, you may wonder what plant you can use as a replacement in the garden should the worst happen – and the caterpillar destroys all! (For more information on the boxwood caterpillar, visit the European Boxwood & Topiary Society website. Their research and hard work has meant all is not lost in the fight to rid the UK …