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Frames For Topiary

Updated on August 9, 2014

Topiary Frames And Topiary Tips

Topiary frames are pre-formed wire frames that help you clip shrubs into interesting shapes easily.

I've chosen some small, medium and large topiary frames here; some are suited to beginners and some need a degree of experience to tackle. Pick one that inspires you, but also make sure that it fits with your level of experience and how quickly you want to see some results.

I've been clipping away for years at various shrubs and I've found topiary frames really useful in keeping a shape as it develops, particularly in the early stages.

Various forms of topiary have been practiced for at least the last couple of thousand years. I imagine topiary frames have been around for nearly as long otherwise what would we obsessive trimmers and clippers use to help us get the shapes we want?

Dancing girl topiary made and photographed by Steve

Ready To Use Cat Frame For Topiary - Frame : 36" - Frame opens for access

All you need to do to create a cat topiary is to clip a growing shrub into a cat shape. A cat topiary frame can be really useful here: you place the frame over a shrub and let the shrub grow and fill out the space inside. Once the shrub has filled the frame, clip it as it grows through, using the frame as a cutting guide. Your shrub soon takes on the shape of the frame and you begin to see a green living cat topiary.

Cat 36 inches high Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration
Cat 36 inches high Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration

This is an easy frame to use. It has a wide base, and the frame opens up, so you could slip this frame over a shrub already growing in your garden and start clipping straight away!

 

How To Use A Topiary Frame - Using frames this way really helps you to shape up your topiary work easily.

A Large Topiary Rabbit Frame

Bunny 18 inches high x 8 inches wide x 8 inches diameter Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration
Bunny 18 inches high x 8 inches wide x 8 inches diameter Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration

This rabbit frame will be just a little more fiddly to train, but not that difficult at all. The trick is to tease a couple of branches along the extended paws, to get the shrub growing sideways.

 

By Tortie tude (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Boxwood Plants Are Perfect For Topiary

Box is the traditional and very best shrub to use if you are going to grow an evergreen topiary. It is evergreen, withstands regular clipping, is drought tolerant and grows in both shade and full sun.

You can grow Boxwood plants and topiary in pots or in well drained ground

An Easy To Use Topiary Frame

Isn't she wonderful! She's 4 foot tall in her hat, and I'd love to see her standing in my garden. This wouldn't take long to shape up if you use an existing shrub. The frame has a wide base and opens up so it will fit around a shrub easily and won't need supporting underneath.

Dancing Girl Topiary Growing In A Pot - Frame trained topiary can be grown in pots easily.

Dancing girl topiary made and photographed by Steve

You can just still see the topiary frame here, but in another year all you will see is a green, living dancing girl. Topiary like this is can be passed on from the originator to the next generation.

That's one of the things I love about topiary. The idea that something you care for and create gets passed on in time, and becomes a legacy for the future. In old topiary gardens, generations of gardeners have clipped and cared for a particular shrub. It makes a golden thread that runs through the life of the garden.

Dolphin Frame Topiary - Frame : 36''

This is an elegant shaped frame, and a little more difficult to use, but if you get it right, it will look beautiful.

Dolphin 36 inches high 24 inches wide 25 inches diameter Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration
Dolphin 36 inches high 24 inches wide 25 inches diameter Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration

The base of this Dolphin topiary frame is narrow, so I don't think it will be possible to sit this over a pre-existing shrub.

What you will need is a young slender plant that has strong upright stems. These stems can be trained up from the tail of the dolphin. They will gradually spread out, and as soon as they fill the frame you can start clipping.

The frame has two stakes to help secure it in the ground, but I'd be tempted to add a stake at the back until the topiary is well established.

 

Yew Planted In A Topiary Frame - Here A Young Yew Is Starting To Fill Out A Topiary Frame

Photo by Karen Roe

You can see a Yew shrub growing and filling up a topiary frame here. It Looks a little sparse right now, but it won't be too long before the frame disappears completely.

This Young Yew Topiary Could Grow And Live Here For Hundreds Of Years. Someone, somewhere will always be moved to clip it.

Baseball Player Topiary Frame

This is an ambitious frame to work with but rather fun. It is a good size, and the frame can be opened which gives you various options.

Plant a 3′ shrub to grow up each leg of the baseball player frame.

As the frame doesn’t have a wide base, it will be necessary to anchor it until the shrubs have become established and sturdy. I’d add a sturdy back post for a couple of years.

So What's Wrong With Using Moss?

This is Spagnum Moss; it's the moss used in moss filled frames

There is a trend to fill topiary frames with sphagnum moss, keep the moss damp and just enjoy it like that. Some folk like to also plant small plants into the moss and let the whole thing grow into a crazy growing object.

Why stuff a topiary frame with harvested moss which is going to die sooner or later when you could make a green living cat that could last a hundred years!

I'd love to persuade you to consider shrub topiary rather than moss topiary. Using moss isn't environmentally friendly, it needs constant watering and misting and as I've already said, it has a limited life. Good topiary is a bit of natural art that can get passed on for generations. Now there's a thought!

Extra Large Topiary Frame - Size : 7.5 ' - Urn Style - This is a magnificent frame for topiary.

A stunning frame that will look wonderful from the moment it arrives in the garden. In time it will guide a shrub into a fantastic piece of topiary.

It comes with a solid base in case you want to stuff it with moss and plant it that way, but I don't recommend it. It will cost a fortune in moss and plants, and unless you can keep the whole thing permanently damp, it will look pretty miserable pretty quicky.

This is one frame that deserves the very best, and I would recommend using either Boxwood or Yew.

Palm Large Wire Frame French Country Topiary Planter
Palm Large Wire Frame French Country Topiary Planter

At 92" x 24" x 24", with a 23" open base, this is the most magnificent topiary frame here.

Because of it's size, and the need for additional strength and stability, this frame is solid welded, and does not have parts that open.

It has a tough powder coated antiqued rust finish, so it will look beautiful, even whilst a shrub is slowly filling the frame.

 

Stephen Armstrong [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Large Topiary Frames In Geometric Shapes - Topiary shapes like this look stunning in a row along the edge of a lawn, or as sentinels in a flower border.

Double Ball 36 inches high - 10 inches diameter 8 inches diameter Indoor Outdoor Hand Wired Animal Topiary Frame Structure
Double Ball 36 inches high - 10 inches diameter 8 inches diameter Indoor Outdoor Hand Wired Animal Topiary Frame Structure

The wire frames may each be opened up here if you want to use this with an existing shrub. At 36" tall and with two balls at 10" and 8", it will need some careful placing if you use a pre-existing shrub.

Far better to start from scratch and train a single stem shrub up the stake. When the stem reaches the bottom of the first ball cage, cut the tip off and let the stem branch out to fill the ball.

Allow one new top shoot to grow on into the base of the next ball and cut the tip off where it enters the ball cage. Let it fill out the second ball. Voila!

 

Small Frames For Topiary : Ideally Suited For Indoors - Topiary Frames - Sizes between 6 -12 Inches

These are quick and easy little projects. They are best displayed on a garden table, or in the conservatory.

Sea Turtle 6 inches high x 15 inches long x 10 inches wide Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration
Sea Turtle 6 inches high x 15 inches long x 10 inches wide Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration

Sweet little turtle. This might look really cute at the edge of a pool, or placed amongst some sand, shingle and rocks.

 
Cat/Butterfly 12 inches high Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration
Cat/Butterfly 12 inches high Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration

This is sweet, but I think the butterfly detail might be hard to achieve successfully.

 
Mushroom 12 inches high Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration
Mushroom 12 inches high Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration

I'd like to make a whole load of these, and have them in a clump somewhere in the garden.

 

Small Plants For Small Topiaries

Light Green Baby Tears Plant - 4" Pot - Helxine - Terrarium/Fairy Garden/Houseplant
Light Green Baby Tears Plant - 4" Pot - Helxine - Terrarium/Fairy Garden/Houseplant

Helxine or 'Baby's Tears' / 'Mind Your Own Business'; just some of the names for this sweet plant. It only grows to 4-5", but it is so green and lush when kept damp. It won't mind being clipped through a low topiary frame either.

 

Born In The USA Topiary Frame - How You Might Use This Frame Effectively.

This is frame measures 12" across x 17" long x 4" high, and I can see 2 ways to use it very effectively.

One way to show off this shape is to find or create a small slope in the garden, lay the shape down flat, and grow Helxine or 'Baby's Tears' up through the frame. If the frame is placed upon a slope, you will be able to read the topiary word from a distance. To emphasise the topiary, you could dress around the letters with pebbles, grit or shells to create a dramatic contrast.

The other way is to place the frame in an upright position and grow Buxus microphylla or 'Korean Box' up through the frame.

USA 12 inches high x 17 inches wide x 4 inches diameter Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration
USA 12 inches high x 17 inches wide x 4 inches diameter Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration

A patriotic topiary frame that spells the letters USA. It's a good one to get going for July 4th.

 

Minature Boxwood For Small Topiaries

Wedding Ring Boxwood - Buxus - Evergreen - Proven Winners
Wedding Ring Boxwood - Buxus - Evergreen - Proven Winners

For the small frames in the 10-15" size range, you need to pick plants that naturally grow at that size. If you try to use shrubs that like to grow big, it's like trying to keep an elephant in a gold fish bowl. Unkind and doomed to failure.

 

Ivy Heart ShapeTopiaries - Here's a couple of heart frames to make your own Ivy heart topiary.

This is about as instant as it can get.

Plant an ivy plant with long stems in a decent sized pot, at least 10" deep and wide.

Place the mini topiary frame in the pot, by pushing the spike into the compost. Don't jam the spike through the heart of the root ball near the stems, try to ease it through at the side.

Gently wind the ivy stems around the frame, and fix in place with a garden wire in a few places. As the Ivy grows, tie in more shoots along the frame, and clip off any straggly bits to keep in good shape.

Heart 8 inches high Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration
Heart 8 inches high Topiary Frame, Handmade Animal Decoration

This frame is designed for moss, but I really like it for ivy topiary. You can wind the ivy round the frame to make a 3D heart very effectively.

 
Thorndale English Ivy 48 Plants - Hardy Groundcover - 2 1/4" Pot
Thorndale English Ivy 48 Plants - Hardy Groundcover - 2 1/4" Pot

These are only small plants. They won't cover these frames, but I've added them in case you don't have access to ivy plants. If that's the case, you'll need to be patient for maybe a year to get your heart covered properly.

 

Moss Filled Topiary Frame or Frame Trained Shrubs?

Which kind of topiary do you prefer?

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Mature Topiary In All It's Glory

This is living topiary. It has presence and magic.

By SiefkinDR (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Here are the wonderful topiary gardens of The Chateau d'Azay-le-Ferron. This is just one example of the true beauty of real, live topiary.

Is There A Topiary Waiting To Be Created By You? - Just get a topiary frame, a small shrub or some ivy. Look after your plant, grab a pair of clippers, and get

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    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      Absolutely beautiful, I would like to make some for my garden.

    • tfsherman lm profile image

      tfsherman lm 4 years ago

      Just love these -- so magical.

    • CoeGurl profile image

      CoeGurl 4 years ago from USA

      These are really cool, especially the piper topiary.

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 4 years ago from Australia

      When we travelled between Hobart and Launceston (Tasmania) when I was a child, I always looked forward to seeing the animal topiaries along the road in one spot. Quite amazing!

    • Essentially Ind profile image

      Essentially Ind 5 years ago

      Lovely ideas for gardens.............:)

    • Wish List Gifts profile image

      Wish List Gifts 5 years ago

      Wow, very impressed. Topiary is an art form. I like too many to name one.