Introduction to Topiary

By Elizabeth Hannigan , last updated March 4, 2011

If you've ever read Stephen King's novel The Shining, you will need no introduction to topiary. Topiary is a form of living sculpture in which shrubs are pruned or trained into shapes like spheres, cubes or animals. Topiary is considered living sculpture because it is made from live plants, not because it should be able to move around your yard when you aren't looking like it does in the novel. If you have topiary that is moving around your yard at night while you sleep, then you definitely have a problem.

Normal, stationary topiary is very popular in English gardens. Different species of boxwood are the most common type of plant used for this very specialized type of gardening. Boxwood is favored because of its lush, dense green foliage. It is also very adaptable and can grow happily in containers or in all sorts of different soil conditions. While topiary is less popular in the United States, you can sometimes find it in amusement parks and hotel gardens. You may also see a small tree trimmed into a cube or sphere at your local nursery once in a while.

There are two types of topiary. The first and most common type is pruned into shape. Usually, geometrically shaped topiary has been pruned to look the way it does. Cubes, spheres and cones are all trimmed on a regular basis by diligent gardeners in order to maintain their shapes. Depending upon how you trim your hedges, you may have your own topiary in your backyard.

The second type of topiary is trained to grow upon frames. This type of topiary is usually reserved for places that have full time professional gardeners on staff. That is because it is very difficult to keep a plant healthy and simultaneously maintain a giraffe shape. If you want to give this type of topiary a try, though, you can order all sorts of animal shaped frames from the Internet.

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