How to Master the Art of Topiary Gardening

I used to have a love-hate relationship with topiary when I first started gardening. The way a few well-placed topiary plants can add formality and depth to a garden is undeniable. However, the high cost...

I used to have a love-hate relationship with topiary when I first started gardening. The way a few well-placed topiary plants can add formality and depth to a garden is undeniable. However, the high cost of ready-made topiaries put me off. But now, I have discovered the joy of growing my own topiary plants at a fraction of the cost. Let me share with you my secrets to creating beautiful topiaries on your own homestead.

The Fascinating History of Topiary

Topiary has a rich history that dates back to the Roman gardens of ancient times. The practice of ornamental pruning started with shaping yew trees into hunting scenes in Roman gardens in 60 A.D. Since then, topiary has become widely popular in formal gardens across Europe. Today, topiaries can be found in ordinary home gardens all over the world.

Creating a Rosemary Tree Topiary

If you're new to topiary gardening, rosemary is an excellent plant to start with. It is forgiving and easy to work with. You can either start your own plants from cuttings or purchase one from a garden store. Here's how you can create your own rosemary tree topiary:

Step 1: Find the Form

Remove the rosemary plant from its container to examine its shape and size. This will help you choose the right topiary pot for it.

Step 2: Choose a Trunk

Select a straight, central stem as the trunk of your topiary rosemary tree. If the plant has multiple trunk options, choose one close to the center of the root mass. You may need to straighten the trunk by staking it.

Step 3: Create the Shape

Prune away any extra stems to leave just one central trunk. Remove branches and leaves from the bottom portion of the trunk. This may seem drastic, but don't worry, your plant will quickly bounce back.

Step 4: Pot Properly

Transfer your rosemary plant to a decorative pot that is proportionate to its size. Use high-quality potting soil with some compost for quick recovery.

Step 5: Decorate (optional)

You can add a personal touch to your topiary by mulching it with pea gravel, granite dust, or adding some moss. Get creative with materials you have on hand.

Step 6: Apply Routine Care

Pinch the upper branches regularly to encourage bushier growth. Clear any new growth on the trunk areas. Water regularly and apply compost tea or organic liquid fertilizer as directed.

Advanced Topiary Skills

Once you've mastered the basics, you can move on to more complex topiary projects. Here are a few things to consider:

1. Plant Selection

Choose plants that naturally lend themselves to shaping. Evergreens like boxwoods and cypress are great for formal landscapes, while Mediterranean or tropical plants like annatto and curry can create stunning single-trunk trees.

2. To Pot or Not

Decide whether you want to grow your topiaries in pots or directly in the ground. Potted topiaries offer flexibility, but require more maintenance. Ground-grown topiaries are more resilient but need frequent pruning.

3. Using Forms

For larger or more intricate shapes, use tools like ropes or chicken wire guides to help visualize and guide your pruning.

4. Patient Planning

Be prepared for a waiting game, especially when starting from cuttings or seeds. Some plants may take years to achieve the desired topiary look. Consider buying established potted trees to save time.

5. Practical Pruning

Prune and shape your topiaries gradually, allowing the plant to recover between pruning sessions. Avoid late-summer pruning, and use the right tools for efficient and safe pruning.

6. Long-Term Care

Choose plants suited to your climate and provide them with proper care. Water and fertilize as needed, check for pests regularly, and ensure good air circulation. Apply compost and mulch to prevent fungal pathogens.

Becoming a Topiarius

Mastering the art of topiary gardening will earn you the title of "toparius" or ornamental gardener. With your newfound skills, you can transform your homestead into an ornamental farm, creating stunning topiary displays that will impress and delight! So, grab your pruning shears and let your creativity flourish in your garden.