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Fascinating Topiary

Updated on January 19, 2013
BlossomSB profile image

Bronwen has lived in, taught in, and visited a number of countries and loves to share these travel experiences with others.

Simple clipping to echo the pebbles of the dry creek bed
Simple clipping to echo the pebbles of the dry creek bed | Source

Topiary is a Fascinating Art

I find the art of topiary quite fascinating. Not that I do it myself. I did try once, but the result was so lopsided I thought it best to be an admirer instead of a doer.

Before World War II, sometimes we went for drives on the outskirts of Melbourne at weekends and some people's hedges were amazing. I remember huge cypress hedges where the name of the house or a coat of arms was neatly cut into the thick, green hedge and was easily visible. Then, I guess with the press of life, the fashion seemed to die down and hedges just became hedges again. However, the art of topiary goes much further back.

History

Topiary has been around for a very long time. It probably first became popular in Roman times when Julius Caesar was around. Then it was first recorded that shrubs were clipped into geometrical shapes and shapes of animals in people's ornamental gardens. Over the centuries, its popularity seems to have waxed and waned, waxing when people were living in times of comparative peace and had time for such pursuits, and waning when wars and other distractions took their minds away from horticultural decorations for their gardens.

Topiary in England and Europe

Around the 1500s topiary became popular in Europe where sometimes low hedges of box shrubs were clipped into interesting shapes, sometimes suggested by the way the plants themselves grew. The gardens at the Palace of Versailles have some delightful examples of topiary that are so neat and trim in parterre gardens that follow complicated patterns. These can be quite old as they have been carefully tended for many years and passed on from one generation to the next.

The fashion extended to England about a century later and even small country gardens would have its topiary centrepiece. However, after about another century, the art fell out of fashion until around the middle of the 1800s, when it revived again and was found to be quite charming.


Castle of Gruyeres, Switzerland; French geometrical style gardem  created at the end of 19th century
Castle of Gruyeres, Switzerland; French geometrical style gardem created at the end of 19th century | Source

Topiary in America

Topiary was not very popular in America in the 1700s and few gardens had any to show, but it gained in popularity in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, especially in the gardens of upper-class Americans. Interest grew, too, in reviving earlier large gardens. One of these was at the Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg, where the topiary maze was replanted in the 1930s.

Giraffe, on a frame, Taiwan
Giraffe, on a frame, Taiwan | Source

Current Trends in Topiary

Interest in topiary has revived with the introduction of steel wire frames that can be made or purchased. These frames have proved a great boon, as they can be used in quite small gardens with the plant grown in a pot that can be moved from place to place. Topiary frames can also be very large in big gardens and some fascinating shapes have been developed showing a wide range of imaginative and interesting examples.

The frames have been used in two ways: in the first, the shrub is planted and the frame place over it. As the shrub grows it fills the shape and is clipped to remain just outside the frame, helping to keep the shape very well. The second method involves stuffing the frame with sphagnum moss and small shrubs or flowering plants are placed in this. Again, the living plants are trimmed to keep the shape of the frame.

The topiary of long ago required considerable time and patience, but with the introduction of the frame method of growing, pleasing, and, indeed, quite eye-catching and startling results can be obtained much more quickly.



Athlete doing a hand-stand, Taiwan
Athlete doing a hand-stand, Taiwan | Source

The frames have been used in two ways:

1. in the first way of using the frame, the shrub is planted and the frame place over it.

As the shrub grows it fills the shape and is clipped to remain just outside the frame, helping to keep the shape very well.

By using quick-growing plants and ones of different colours, many pleasing effects may be obtained.






2. The second method of using the frame involves stuffing the frame with sphagnum moss and small shrubs or flowering plants are placed in this.

Again, the living plants, which can be simply green or quite colourful, are trimmed to keep the shape of the frame.


This face is just part of a huge display; Taiwan
This face is just part of a huge display; Taiwan | Source

The Use of Frames

The topiary of long ago required considerable time and patience to achieve the desired result. However, with the introduction of the frame method of growing, pleasing, and, indeed, quite eye-catching and even startling results can be obtained much more quickly.


Gardeners at work, Taiwan
Gardeners at work, Taiwan | Source

Comments

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    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      6 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Lady Wolfs: I've tried it and watched others and you're right, it takes patience, creativity and dedication, but the results can be so attractive and interesting. Thank you for your comment.

    • profile image

      Lady Wolfs 

      6 years ago

      Topiary is really a fascinating art. It certainly would have to take patience, and an artistic person, to sculpture the greenery into such beautiful images. Thank you for sharing this informative hub.

      Voted up and interesting!

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      6 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      tlmcgaa70: It certainly is fascinating. Thank you for your comments and vote.

    • tlmcgaa70 profile image

      tlmcgaa70 

      6 years ago from south dakota, usa

      ive always loved topiary, and found this to be a very informative and fascinating hub...thank you for sharing it with us. voted up and more and shared

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Good for you! Yes, I missed writing about those at Disney World. Problem is that I was so busy looking I forgot to take photos. Thanks.

    • WD Curry 111 profile image

      WD Curry 111 

      7 years ago from Space Coast

      I love topiary, too. I have tried it. I got some interesting abstracts. I live close to Disney World, and they have some that will blow your mind. The ones in your pictures do to.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Davenmidtown: Thank you so much for your encouragement.

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 

      7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Hi Blossom! Don't be sorry that you are not doing more here... write that book!

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      acaetnna: Thank you for coming by and for reading.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      davenmidtown: Thank you for your lovely comments. Sorry I'm not doing more on HubPages at the moment, I'm trying to finish a book I began ages ago.

    • acaetnna profile image

      acaetnna 

      7 years ago from Guildford

      Brilliant - thank you.

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 

      7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Blossom! I love the way you write. It takes me there... This is just a wonderful article. It is full of information and bits of the past that make it endearing. Thank you for being an example of wonderful writing as both an art and as a skill. dnm

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Yes, we visited the USA some years ago and saw those wonderful, neat examples at Disney World, but I didn't take any photos. As you write, they are indeed artistic. Thank you for your comments.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the visit.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Great article. Most of my experience with topiary is seeing it at Disney. I've seen some great artistry there. Thanks for showing us some nice examples.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 

      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I learned something today! Excellent!

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      KatrineDalMonte: It's interesting what we can do with natural elements and how much pleasure we can gain from the results. Thank you for your comment.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      stars439: I'm glad you enjoyed it. May God bless you and your family, too.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Faith Reaper: Yes, the gardeners at work photo is fun. I enjoyed writing the hub and going through my photos again, too. Thank you for your comments.

    • profile image

      KatrineDalMonte 

      7 years ago

      These things created from mother nature are awesome. It must take a lot of time and talent to create such beauty. Lovely hub.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 

      7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Very nice, and quite lovely. God Bless You Dear Heart.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      7 years ago from southern USA

      Blossom, I have always loved the art of topiary. This hub is so insightful and enhanced with the lovely imagery of topiary. I love the gardeners at work, and the others in the background of that same image. I once thought I would try making topiary out of the voluminous amount of ivy I have in my yard - small scale type topiary. Well done! In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      bdeguillo: I actually have more photos, especially from Taiwan, but enough is enough. Thank you for your comments and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Movie Master: Thank you for your vote, Lesley. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. It's fun to be always learning something new.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      donnaisabella: I guess it does sound a bit like cheating, but the results can be so wonderful and eye-catching, and yes, they are so artistic.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      AmandaB: I remember that and it was very attractive, my dear daughter. I don't even know what Ionicerus is, so you're one up on me! Sounds lovely though.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      aviannovice: Thank you. Yes, it's so well cared for at Disneyworld, too.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Blossom. Great Hub. Really enjoyed learning about topiary. Love the photos. It's amazing what they can do today using the frames. Great job.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Blossom, thank you for this introduction to topiary, although I have always admired it, I didn't know the history behind it or how it was achieved!

      A wonderful hub, voted up and shared.

      Best wishes Lesley

    • donnaisabella profile image

      Isabella Mukanda 

      7 years ago from Fort Myers

      This is beautiful and amazing. I love innovations and it amazes me delightfully when people find new ways of solving old problems. It is almost as if they are cheating, but in reality, they are also artists. In recent times I have also been fascinated by the topiary of "a man named Pearl" who is presented in a documentary by that name. Thanks for the lovely pictures.

    • profile image

      AmandaB 

      7 years ago

      I adore all things Topiary and love clipped hedges as well. In my home sold a few years ago I had curving low hedges with clipped balls at each end. Currently I am growing a circle of lonicerus around a frame in a terracotta pot - only halfway there but it is taking shape slowly. You do have to be patient! Thanks for this posting (mum!)

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      7 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Very nice introduction to topiary. The first place that I saw some was at Disneyworld.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Jackie Lynnley: They are fascinating. I just said the same thing to myself this morning when I was walking my dog. Why didn't I take my camera? I missed some really interesting shots. Oh, well!

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Vidya Mallar: Thank you. I hope you have a great day, too.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      7 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Those really are so fascinating. There are some near me really weird, I will have to manage some pictures one day.

    • Vidya Mallar profile image

      Vidya Mallar 

      7 years ago from India

      Thank you for further information .. Blossom, really it was a useful hub.. have a good time...

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      mary615: Oh, that must have been so disappointing to see it destroyed as they really are works of art.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      teaches12345: Oh, wow! I'm sure they'd be very elegant indeed. Does it take a lot of time and patience to maintain them, or is it only at certain seasons?

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      mours sshields: Thank you, Marcia. I'm now wondering what they were like in Julius Caesar's time. It certainly is artistic.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      always exploring: Thank you for your lovely comments. Now I'm wondering if they use purchased shapes or design their own in Illinois.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      writer20: Thank you, Joyce. I'm glad you've enjoyed it.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      anginwu: I think it's clever, too, and it's so interesting to walk among the shapes in a garden and to enjoy them. Peaceful, too.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      flashmakeit: Thank you. I guess that these days it is easier to do using purchased shapes, but they still must need lots of maintenance.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      kashmir56: That's exactly what they are, green sculptures and so clever, too. I should think they take longer than stone sculptures as they require constant maintenance.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      kj force: Oh, yes! I forgot about all that great topiary work in Disney World. They must have a whole army of gardeners working on them and they look so great. Thank you for reminding me.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Beyond Max: Your grandpa must have been a keen gardener and very talented. Did you ever get any photos of his work? Happy memories.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Frank Atanacio: Thank you, Frank. My dictionary tells me you can have plural of the word - topiaries, but I still don't know if the person who does the clipping is called a topiarist or not!

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Vidya Mallar: Yes, it's an interesting word. Apparently it comes from the Latin and means 'ornamental gardener.' I'm glad you enjoyed my photos.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      7 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Vellur: I agree, it must take lots of time and patience, but the results can be amazing.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      7 years ago from Florida

      My Veterinarians office had topiary that was so nice. He had a dog and a cat. Then he built a new office, and it was destroyed by the new owners. What a shame. Nice Hub you did here.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      We have a couple of topiary in our front yard. They add just a touch of elegance to the entrance. I have seen some really interesting ones at Disney. I love the castle maze design. Very interesting hub topic and well presented.

    • profile image

      mours sshields 

      7 years ago from Elwood, Indiana

      This is very fascinating! And, beautiful artwork! I've seen it before. Very good hub and interesting!

      Marcia Ours

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      7 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I love this. I've seen some beautiful Topiary here in Illinois. Your photos are beautiful. Thank you.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 

      7 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Wonderful hub with great photos. Vote up and interesting. Joyce.

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 

      7 years ago

      I love topiary too. I think it's so clever and the effect is very beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    • flashmakeit profile image

      flashmakeit 

      7 years ago from usa

      This is a magnificent article for gardeners and landscapers. I wish I knew how to make some fancy shaped topiary hedges.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great hub Blossom, I enjoyed read about Topiary and loved all the beautiful photos of these greenery sculptures .

      Vote up and more !!!

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Awesome photos...you did a great job with this subject, found it very interesting..another form of ART..Disney World has some awesome Topiaries..thanks for sharing.

    • BeyondMax profile image

      BeyondMax 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      What a beautiful story and amazing pictures, that brought a lot of memories! My grandpa always used the frames for Topiary projects, they still required time to look after and to keep them in shape, but like you said - less time than to shape it from scratch.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      7 years ago from Shelton

      Blossom thank you for this wonderful share and for educating me I didn't even know what a Topiary was.. :) now I do YES!

    • Vidya Mallar profile image

      Vidya Mallar 

      7 years ago from India

      Very useful information ... Very attractive pictures I didn't even know that this art was known as Topiary... Thank you for the share Blossom... Have a good day...

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub. Topiary - art with greenery. It looks real nice, but must be tough to exactly sculpture and maintain. Interesting and informative. Voted up. Loved the images.

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