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Shaping up with topiary plants

  22/08/2013 at 10:38 am

Evergreen plants are clipped and trained to geometric shapes or even complex animal sculptures. Topiary plants are generally slow- growing and are usually evergreen, although deciduous plants may be used.The art of topiary has been around for thousands of years and is synonymous with 17th century gardens, decorated with yew (Taxus baccata) and box (Buxus sempervirens) plants. A perfect example of this art can still be appreciated in the gardens of the Château de Versailles, France. Back to the 21st century and topiary is once again making a welcome comeback, as it now gains favour with a whole new generation.

If you are looking for a real show stopper, you need look no further than Clematis Josephine. Large unusual flowers have eight, broad creamy-green and pinkish-mauve outer sepals, slightly darker near the centre and layers of small inner ones of similar colouring forming a rosette. Flowering over a long period from late spring until autumn. Ideal for growing in a container or thorough other wall trained shrubs. Best aspect is a south, west or east facing position. Height 180-240cm (6-8ft), light prune in early spring.

Box (Buxus sempervirens): This is probably one of the most popular of all topiary plants, and no surprise this is down to the sheer diversity of this tough evergreen. I maybe a little biased in singing the praises of this plant, as this is one of my favourites. In my own garden I have used box plants for dividing the vegetable garden, creating formal style in planted containers and low maintenance planting in dappled shade, a true all-rounder!

The perfect plant that grows this height, keeps its leaves and flowers all year is but a dream, but this aspiration can be created by using topiary box as centre feature then under planting with seasonal colour, thus creating the perfect all-year-round plant.

Bay Laurel (Prunus nobilis): We are often asked for the lollipop plant, which many people grow in pots either side of their front door. Lollipop refers to the shape in which they are grown, in horticultural terms they are known as a half standard. The leaves of bay laurels are both aromatic and edible, making them the perfect addition to the herb garden. Bay laurels are slow growing; therefore they need only be clipped once or twice a year and are ideal for growing in planted containers. When grown with the minimum care, bay laurels are one of the easiest topiaries providing you follow a few simple rules. (i)Water regularly in dry weather. (ii) Feed annually with slow-release granules in spring. (iii) Move to a sheltered location during winter months.

To do list:

1. Early autumn is your last chance to prune evergreen plants which include topiary such as box and bay laurel. Tip: Stop feeding now as this will only stimulate soft new growth which will be susceptible to winter frosts. Topiary plants that are top heavy can easily blow over; re-pot now using pots with wide bases. Mix Styrofoam through compost-aids both drainage and frost protection.

2. Act now to prevent spoiled fruit!!! When it comes to gardening the wasp can be friend or foe, as aphids are one of their food sources, but when it comes to August they like to sweeten the diet with ripe apples and plums. Tip: A completely organic method is to hang wasp traps in susceptible trees, add fruit juice to attract and hay presto problem solved. Remember wasps are beneficial in the garden, so only use traps where necessary.

3. Make the best of the dry weather and start planting spring bulbs. I’m always amazed just how many people call into the garden centre in late February looking to plant daffodil and spring bulbs. Tip: Like potatoes and onions only buy bulbs that are firm to the touch. Visit your local garden centre now and you will be amazed at just how many types of bulbs you can plant for spring colour.

By Eamonn Wall