The Art Of Topiary: Get Inspired
Topiary Art Is Clipping A Shrub Into Any Shape You Can Think Of And Having Fun
Topiary art is one of the most creative and calming things you can do in a garden. Clip a shrub into a shape. It doesn't matter what shape; any shape is fine, just so long as it gives you pleasure and doesn't offend the neighbours.
Topiary is all a matter of taste, but more than that, it is an art form where your character, nature, and the landscape of your dreams gets writ large.
There is great satisfaction to be found in the quiet, meditative art of topiary. Whatever form your shrub carving may take, you are part of a creative history that stretches back to antiquity.
Why Do We Make Topiary?
photo by Steven Feather
With topiary, we mould Nature to fit our dreams and fancies. Do we like to create the illusion that we have some control over nature, at least in our own backyard, or do we just enjoy joining hand in hand with nature to make something new?
At this cottage just before you enter Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, gardeners, for many years, have clipped and shaped these shrubs into strange shapes. These topiaries have evolved over time in this garden out of contingency and whim.
Over two thousand years ago, people in Ancient Rome did a similar thing. It is said that the Romans invented topiary. Who knows. Sadly the topiaries of the past are no longer here to be seen and recorded.
The Art Of Topiary Is Universal - Anyone can make a topiary.
One of the things I love about topiary is that it is such a non elitist, universal art form. Anyone can make a topiary. It is there to see in grand gardens, public spaces and ordinary folks yards. Obviously space dictates how large your topiary can be. The Waving Man of Dollar is an ingenious use of limited space in a suburban setting.
Hedge Row, Wayside, Farmyard Topiary - A great piece of guerilla gardening
This is a truly wonderful piece of annonymous topiary art that can be found on the grass verge of King Lane outside Kings Cottage, and opposite the turning to Froxfield Farm, High Cross, Hampshire, Great Britain. I love the fact that someone took the time to clip and care for these shrub sculptures for fun and whimsy, unconcerned whether they are recognised for their work or not.
Having Fun With A Boundary Hedge - Another example of space efficient topiary.
Topiary Art Also Works Well In Pots - Where space is really limited, topiary can grow in pots.
Have you ever had a stab at making topiary?
Have you ever had a stab at making topiary?
Here Are Some Of My Favourite Topiary Gardens
The Yews At Athelhampton House - The art of topiary can be mysterious and monolithic
The garden at Athelhampton House is possibly my most favourite garden in the world. Set in the grounds of a manor house built in 1493, the gardens were laid out and planted between 1891 - 1899 by Alfred Cart de Lafontaine.
Utterly atmoshpheric, it is a garden where topiary isn't an event within the garden; at Athelhampton, topiary is the garden.
Apart from these wonderful living pyramids that stand like great monoliths, there are garden spaces, walkways and vistas that exist simply because they are enclosed by massive walls of clipped yew.
It is a garden where you feel quite small and wonderous as you pass from one green event to another, and a place that puts the worries and anxieties of daily life into a better perspective.
This link will take you to the official Athelhampton website where you can see more pictures of the gardens:
The Apostle Yews Of Lytes Carey
Photo by Stronach
This is a garden that I used to visit with my mother on a warm summer's day. We'd have tea in the garden and wander across the grass, smiling at the lovely yews. It has an air of ancient timelessness, nestling as it does in the Somerset landscape.
Lytes Carey was the home of the great mediaeval herbalist Henry Lyte, who created a botanic garden there in 1556. His book 'Lytes Herbal' was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth 1 and became a best seller. It was from this time that the gardens became an important part of Lytes Carey Manor.
The house and gardens evolved between the 13th to 18th centuries under the ownership of the Lyte family, but fell into disrepair in the early 20th century. It was rescued from ruin by Sir Walter Jenner, and the gardens were re laid in the Arts and Crafts Style. This style promoted the use of herbaceous borders, walkways and vistas within the framework of outdoor rooms and topiary. Today the house and gardens are managed and owned by the National Trust.
This link will take you to Wikipedia where you can see more pictures of the gardens and the beautiful and ancient house:
The Topiary Of Levens Hall
The Topiary Of Hidcote Gardens - Topiary Is Essential To The English Garden Room Style
This is the English Garden Room Style, developed over the last 150 years in large country gardens,.
Here at Hidcote Gardens, clipped hedges create the framework and backbone of the famous garden rooms. Within this framework, summer flowers can flourish in contrasting abandon.
The Maze At Longleat
Famous Topiary Gardens
These gardens are famous for their topiary. They contain growing shrubs that have been carefully clipped and maintained over the years. These topiary gardens continue to live on long after their original artist has gone on to greener pastures and the great garden in the sky.
- Levens Hall
Some of the oldest topiary in the world.
- Green Animals Topiary Garden
Green Animals is the oldest and most northern topiary garden in the United States
- The Topiary Park
Located in Columbus, the garden includes James T Mason's topiary reinterpretation of Georges Seurat's famous painting 'A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte'
Boxwood And Yew Are Best For Topiary - Topiary can be made out of many shrubs but Box and Yew are best.
photo at wikimedia
Box, or Buxus sempervirens to use its Latin name, was one of the first plants to be used for topiary. It is thought to have been grown for formal hedgeing by Ancient Egyptians and then later by the Greeks.
It can grow into a small tree, but its value in gardens lies in its tough evergreen compact growth, and the ability to withstand frequent clipping.
By Simon Garbutt. SiGarb 20:02, 4 December 2006 (UTC) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
For more about the wonderful Yew, visit my ancient Yew trees lens
Useful Topiary Art Links
And is this the craziest topiary art in the world?
Geometric topiary - Reflecting the patterns that underlie everything...
This geometric layout has been calculated with great accuracy, and is very satisfying to the brain. There is something strange and wonderful about massive living shapes that mirror the geometry of the universe. Topiary maintained and photographed by Steve