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What is a topiary

topiary trees

Landscape Park-this is nature slightly corrected by man. Regular-a tandem of nature and man. What are topiary trees?

The word from the English language “topiary” is similar to the Latin ” topiaries”, which means gardener. And the Latin name came from ” topia” – decorative gardening. The classic understanding of topiary art is geometric, natural, or fictional forms that are cut from shrubs or trees with small leaves. This can be done according to a template or approximately, “by eye”, in two words-a green sculpture.

Topiary trees are one of the most ancient forms of art. It came to Europe from the Eastern Mediterranean and Asia. Topiary forms became the usual decoration of the garden of a wealthy Roman by the end of the first century of the new era.

After the fall of the Roman Empire and the mores became very wild, the artistic aesthetics of everyday life and applied arts fell into decline, and the achievements of an ancient civilization were forgotten. And only in monasteries – centers of the culture of that era – ornamental gardening did not disappear.

Topiary art received its revival already in the Renaissance. Many remarkable masterpieces created by the masters of the Italian Renaissance have survived to our time: the gardens at the Villa Lante in Bayeux, the Villa Garzoni in Tuscany, the Park at the baldino castle in Pavia.

topiary trees

There was a time when the art of topiary conquered the whole of Europe. But nothing lasts forever under the Moon, fashion has changed, including under the influence of such opponents as poets and philosophers-thinkers who vehemently opposed “violence” over shrubs and trees. So decorativeness gave way to naturalness. Was turned into a landscape of many well-known regular gardens.

Since the end of the XVIII century in the countries of European culture and Europe, fashion is constantly changing, in favor of the landscape, the regular style. Stereotypes arise: the regular style is continental countries, Italy, France, and the landscape style is good old England. But it’s not that simple. As a result, the most famous topiary gardens appeared not in France, but in the United States: Longwood garden in Pennsylvania, Ladue garden in Maryland, in England: Levens Hall, great Dixter, and in Scotland: Drummond Park.

Types and forms of topiary trees

Of course, the technique of topiary art developed. In the era of Queen Victoria, the British invented the “new topiary”. A plant was planted in a metal frame, and it developed into the desired shape. Upon reaching maturity, the master only needed to tweak it a little. But modern masters do not agree with this method. Often there is a fusion of the plant with the frame. Sometimes to such an extent that it is impossible to remove the frame without losing its shape.

topiary trees

Modern modifications of topiary trees combine the definition of “green art”. Street structures are one of them. These are sculptural-frame forms made of metal, layered with earth, moss, and foam filler. In such forms, plants are planted. As a rule, these are weaving or creeping carpet annuals, from perennials-various lianas. These structures exist before the first frosts.

Table designs are the same street designs on a reduced scale. Christmas sculpture is called decoration of a metal frame with branches of coniferous trees, decorated with toys, lanterns, and candles.

topiary trees

It happens that in the compositions of “green art” using cut flowers. But this is an exception that exists on the verge of indoor gardening and floristry.


Topiary art requires time, patience, and more patience. Gardeners know that for 2-3 years it is impossible to create a stable form, the plant will not withstand the load.

To create a good shape, the topiary requires plants with the following properties: having small leaves that grow slowly, able to grow replacement shoots throughout their existence, with a large number of dormant buds on the trunk. In countries where the climate is mild, boxwood, noble Laurel, and yew have such properties. In our region, the range is slightly different: dogwood, small-leaved elm, hawthorn, barberry, prickly and common spruce, Western thuja, willow.

The next step is choosing a good tool. A good tool is expensive. You will need a pruner, trellis shears, a knot cutter and a garden saw. The best manufacturers are located in Japan, Finland, Sweden or Switzerland. It goes without saying that art does not recognize motor-scissors and other rough tools, forms with small details can not be created using them.

topiary trees

You should definitely think about the idea of a green sculpture, the plot, the composition, and the overall background. There are many options: a spiral, an evergreen column, a pyramid, a curly fence, a cone, a ball, a cylinder, a bouquet in a vase. Whatever you want. The main thing is to be realistic and set realistic goals.

Cutting plants begins after five years. At this age, the root system is already sufficiently developed and can withstand the shock of a haircut. If the plant is transplanted recently, you will have to wait another year, this time is necessary for rooting. Do not remove more than one-third of the plant at a time – this is a Golden rule every gardener should remember, even a very strong specimen can not withstand excessive shearing and will start to get sick.

If the plants are properly cared for, then even weakened by a haircut, they overwinter without loss. Proper care is to cut not infrequently and not often. For example, for boxwood, two haircuts a year is the norm. It is advisable not to cut the plant before winter, regularly feed, water.

In the middle latitudes, topiary is difficult to do, but it is possible. The range of plants and climatic conditions do not allow gardeners to relax. Topiary sculptures brought from abroad and planted here do not winter well, being in fact “disposable”. To preserve them, they are planted in containers, moving them to a room with a temperature close to 5°C and good lighting for the winter.

Don’t get carried away with too complex shapes. Funny “elephants” and “dinosaurs” are essentially toys, they are difficult to maintain in perfect condition. Creating simple geometric shapes, get the same pleasure and less worries.

In ancient manors, gardens and parks in the former Russian Empire, you can still find, though small, but remarkable specimens of topiary sculptures. If the living conditions of the plant are good, if it has a correctly formed crown, if it was cut according to the rules and carefully, then even after reaching a decent age, it continues to maintain the signs of topiary art by inertia. For this, it is worth trying your hand.


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