Who’s afraid of topiary?
If you have topiary trees, the start of autumn is a great time to cut them back. By the time October has come, even though they will have had a little prune in the summer, they will be in need of a much stronger prune.
This will leave them looking neat through the winter months where they will have little or no growth. Due to the neat nature of the topiary look, you will be able to see the cobwebs more clearly amongst the leaves and branches, which looks stunning in the winter frosts. The whole point of topiary is not to see the plants shaped up during the summer (although they do look great at that time of year) but to bring structures and shapes to look at in the winter when the gardens are void of colour or plant life.
Topiary almost fades into the background in some gardens or beds. They may look great on lawns as features, but in beds you will see them slowly disappear amongst a crescendo of plants, flowers or wildlife.
My top tip for topiary is don’t be scared! People often worry about the plant being cut too hard, but I have found over the many years of cutting that the plants welcome it. If you are too cautious (like I have been guilty of in my early years of gardening) you will find the plants getting bigger and bigger year on year, the reality is that we need to be harsh, almost as close to “brown” as possible. Brown, by the way, is where you cut too hard and are left with very few leaves left on just the brown stalks of the branches. Cutting hard will stop the plant from growing bigger than you want it to and it will give a sharp, crisp look to the shape of the plant.
In recent years I have really enjoyed taking normal trees or overgrown bushes and shaping them up into cones, balls or spirals. In one of our client’s gardens we are shaping up a Taxus “yew” and turning it into a a Robin. We’ve even planted a Photinia (a red leafed shrub) in the breast area of the Robin.
Remember, the charm of gardening is that there are no rules or boundaries, and everything is open to interpretation and fun.
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