THE MODERN MINT BLOG
An artist? Really? For your garden? Why exactly would you need a topiary artist?!?!?
What A Topiary Artist Can Do For Your Garden
It can help you elevate a shrub or tree that is, perhaps, overgrown or taking light away from more precious plants in your borders, into something… Architectural. Noteworthy. A brilliant contrast to what is around it.
Perhaps a topiary artist can help sculpt a shrub into something that draws the eyes to the sky? Imagine a piece that can do that, in a garden sitting below the immense heavens of Norfolk?
For me, you call in a topiary artist when you have a garden that needs another dimension added to it, through judicial pruning that can take the eye skywards, or allow in more light and air, or give space to a garden that is beginning to feel claustrophobic.
Is Topiary Artist A Real Job?
I normally just say ‘I’m a gardener’ when asked about my job.
And I am. I garden. I just tend to do it with a pair of shears in my hands, secateurs in my pocket and a beady eye appraising the shrubs in the garden.
‘What can I do with that?’ goes through my head as I look around… come on! Let me at it!
So no, topiary artist is not a real job… although I make my living from pruning, it covers a vast spectrum of work. I can be found:
- Pruning fruit trees, roses and wisteria in winter
- Maintaining or making hedges, shrubs and topiary pieces in spring, summer and autumn
- Spraying nematodes and using other organic techniques to stop boxwood caterpillar eating the boxwood at a client’s house
- Talking about gardening at clubs all through the year
- Running workshops and teaching topiary whenever someone asks me or needs to know more about how to wield their shears
So lots of different streams run into the great river that is a topiary artist.
And most importantly it is the attitude towards what you can do with a shrub, using a pair of sharp shears, not the label you are given or even the tools you use that make it art. (Although to be fair, the shears in the picture above are almost an art work in themselves, made by Tobisho-san in Japan, of blue steel and magnolia obvata.)
Do I Need A Topiary Artist Then?
Possibly, if your garden has just been planted with lots of shrubs, trees and hedges. An artist (of the topiary variety) can aid you in growing it well and cultivating these new plants towards the shapes you want them to be.
Or if your garden has a number of already developed shrubs, hedges and the like, but feels like it is closed in and all a bit lost. Like these plants have too much weight and are doing no more than adding bulk to a garden, rather than acting as counterpoints to lighter, airier plantings.
That is when you need a topiary artist. The art being that someone can come in, observe… and take responsibility to make the most of what you have.
A topiary artist turns a shrub into something that works in the garden – whether drawing the eye to it, as a piece you wish to look at in its own right, or by giving context to something else in the garden, and so improving that.
Topiary art is just that – an art. It will change day by day, but if you have a garden that needs a little pizzazz, or love, or extra joy brought to it… you can do worse than ask a topiary artist in for a look.
See more of my work as a topiary artist here.
Or contact me to discuss visiting your garden.
Phillyrea is one of my favourite plants for topiary. I have been using it for quite a few years as a specimen shrub, mostly due to the fact it clips well and has a tough habit – all good characteristics for a topiary plant. It also has a reputation for being an excellent nectar source for bees… Read more about Phillyrea here. Mentioning this to Malcolm Thicke, a market garden historian and writer, he sent me a some photos of topiary and phillyrea mentioned by John Worlidge in Systema Horticulturae from 1682…. incredible! He also mentioned to me that in …
Kites and Strings is a podcast about creativity, hosted by US-based Stephen Ploum and Catherine Chinnock. Back in March they asked me to come onto their podcast and talk about topiary, my past writing plays, the stand-up I did and how creativity can fit into your life. The Kites and Strings podcast was great fun and Stephen and Catherine are fantastic hosts. Listening back today I am surprised by some of the ideas I talked about (somehow I even started to describe a future where I run a ‘School of Creativity’ by the sea…. where did that come from?!) but it …
Robinia is often forgotten – by me, actually! – when thinking of plants for topiary. But when I work on it I do love it, brittle and soft as the wood is if you climb into it. But that danger of snapping a branch with a heavy step and falling out of the tree aside, I love it for the dappled light it allows into the garden space. Robinia Near The Sea Below is a Robinia I have gently clipped over the last few years, down near Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. The tree was large when I arrived, although it is …