This never-ending winter begs for images of warmth, sunshine and blossoming gardens. So for all of you garden lovers out there, here’s a selection of pictures I know you’re going to like. Topiary is the horticultural practice of clipping shrubs and trees into different ornamental shapes and has been around for millennia. Pliny’s Natural History credits Gaius Matius Calvinus for creating one of the first topiary gardens for Julius Ceasar and, in the many centuries since, topiary has gained popularity worldwide.
As an art, it is a type of living sculpture in which perennial plants (plants that live for more than two years) are trained to grow a certain way by trimming their twigs and foliage. Topiary is closely related to the Asian arts of creating miniature gardens and shaped trees that are widely popular in China (called penjing) and Japan (bonsai). In Europe, English gardens in particular are famous for their intricate designs (think Levens Hall – the world’s oldest and most famous topiary garden!).
The plants best used in topiary are evergreens, mostly woody, with a great body – dense and with small leaves or needles. Common species chosen for topiaries are European box (buxus), arborvitae, bay laurel, holly (illex), myrtle, yew and privet. The clippings can be done either with the help of shaped wires, or free-hand (so much harder!). The simplest form of topiary is called hedge, mostly used to create live boundaries between different garden sections.
Wow, the magic a pair of garden shears can do!