Winter Topiary Gardens
Topiary has many uses - structure, ornament, barrier, foil, and in winter, frosted garden scupture. Now, after a few of decades out of fashion, it's making a comeback.
From the ancient yew sculptures of Cumbria's Levens Hall to the long rippling hedges of London's Thames Barrier Park, the UK has some of the world's best topiary gardens.
Thames Barrier Park
London E16 2HP England. Open all year
Opened in 2000, the first riverside park in London for more than 50 years takes the ancient art of topiary into the 21st century. Both sculptural and structural, its rolling topiary hedges rise and fall beside narrow paths and strip beds, echoing the colors and contours of the River Thames next door, and leading the eye to the giant steel domes of The Thames Barrier, London's flood defense system.
Surrey TW10 7RS England. Open all year
Ham House has one of the few English formal gardens to have survived Capability Brown and the English Landscape Movement. Topiary plays a big part here. Low Boxwood hedges and clipped yew cones enclose soft drifts of Lavender and Santolina cushions. The result is a subtle tapestry of contrasting colors, shapes and textures through the seasons.
Cumbria LA8 0PD. Opens April to October
Levens Hall is one of of the oldest and most famous topiary gardens in the world. Its whimsical wonderland of cones, obelisks, blobs, balls, hats and weird shapes goes back 300 years to a time when topiary gardens were a show of wealth and skill. The more elaborate the labor-intensive topiary, the richer the garden's owner. In fact, Levens Hall's topiary is more ornamental than its plants, which form calming blocks of color - the perfect counterpoint.
Buckinghamshire SL6 0JA, England. Open until Dec 22 and then from mid March next year
Clivedon's topiary Long Garden, created in the early 1900s, was inspired the great topiary gardens of the past. It's full of topiary birds, spirals, giant vases and other strange topiary forms, with curving Boxwood hedges snaking through them.
Hidcote Manor Garden
Gloucestershire GL55 6LR, England. Open March to October
One of England's greatest gardens, Hidcote had the world's first garden rooms, an idea that quickly spread across the world. Topiary hedges must have a played a part in their success. Planted with Yew, Beech and Holly, they screen the rooms from one another, allowing completely different gardening styles to sit side by side.
Biddulph Grange Garden
Staffordshire ST8 7SD, England. Open to December 17 and then from March
Here topiary hedges are again used as barriers between garden rooms. Each room is a country; Egypt, China and Scotland among them. Nearby, buttressed yew hedges are the perfect foil for the colorful dahlias of The Dahlia Walk.
Other topiary gardens
Westbury Court Garden, Gloucestershire GL14 1PD; Hampton Court Palace and Gardens, Surrey KT8 9AU , Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, NE26 4QR
Mount Stewart, County Down, Northern Ireland; Powis Castle, SY21 8RF; Chirck Castle, Wrexham LL14 5AF, Wales; The Preist's House, Sussex RH19 4PP; Packwood House Warwickshire B94 6AT; Warwick Castle Warwickshire, CV34 4QU; Hever Castle, Sussex TN8 7NG; Chastleton House, Oxfordshire GL56 0SU
Topiary Hedges and Parterres
Knightshayes Court, Devon EX16 7RQ; Blickling Hall, Norfolk NR11 6NF; Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent TN17 2AB; Hatfield House Garden, Hertfordshire AL9 5NQ