Topiary is a very popular feature found in various settings such as formal gardens, public parks, theme parks, residential landscapes, or even in business venues. People often find it amusing to see shrubs or trees shaped into playful or visually appealing designs like perfectly shaped balls, pyramids, or even human figures. It provides not only eye-catching pieces but also beauty, character, and interest to any greenery in outdoor spaces.
What Is Topiary Tree Shaping?
Topiary Tree Shaping is the art and Science of shaping and pruning trees and shrubs into ornamental shapes. As simple as it may sound, this implies training and trimming plants to make a specific shape, form, or design. Imagine having a garden filled with geometric and artistic nature, like spirals, cones, balls, cubes, and animals. The art of topiary is a popular garden design for plant enthusiasts and has been around for centuries to improve landscapes, structure, and a touch of elegance. It is an excellent way to blend nature and creativity at its finest.
Transforming living plants into a work of art may include the use of wire topiary frames or supports, trimming tools, and strings to guide the growth and maintain the desired shape or design. It is best to use thickly-leafed evergreen shrubs. Topiary requires regular maintenance to keep the form and design, thus keeping the plants looking neat over time.
Brief History of Topiary
It is a horticultural practice that dates back to ancient Roman times. The word topiary is an English term that originated from the Greek word “topos,” which means “place,” and the Latin word “topiarus,” which means “ornamental gardener”. The Romans were the ones who introduced and popularized topiary, from creating simple dwarf-box hedging, columns, and cones to elevating garden scenes.
Topiary has had its rise and fall throughout the years, but it continues to thrive, from popular theme parks, zoos, and wildlife parks to major international sporting events.
Best Plants for Topiary
Thickly evergreen shrubs are considered the best subjects for topiary. Here are some of the plants commonly used in the creative form of topiary:
- Yew Bushes – (Or Taxus) Are known to have many variations of shrubs and trees. Yew is a conifer, which means it produces cones instead of flowers. They are easy to maintain and very adaptable to various shapes.
- Boxwood Shrubs – (Or Buxus) Is a popular choice for classic topiary designs. They are easy to grow, can tolerate frequent pruning, have dense growth, and provide year-round structure and color. An excellent choice for hedging!
- Cypress – This is another popular large plant for topiary. They are beautiful, easy to shape, and have good color variation. Certain varieties have needle-like, evergreen foliage, which makes it easy to prune and shape into different forms.
- Arborvitae Shrubs – (Or Thuja Occidentalis) Are evergreen trees or shrubs commonly used as privacy hedges due to their pyramidal shape. They are widely used in gardening and landscaping as they are easy to care for, drought-tolerant, and winter-hardy.
- Dwarf Alberta Spruce Tree – (Or Picea Glauca ‘Conica’) Is an evergreen conifer tree known for its classic pyramidal or conical shape and its small size, which typically doesn’t exceed 13 feet, which makes it a popular choice for holiday decorations. Aside from being a Christmas tree decor, it is loved due to its low-maintenance nature and drought and winter-tolerant capability.
- Cherry Laurel Shrubs – (Or Prunus Laurocerasus) Is a perennial evergreen shrub or small tree popular in gardening and landscaping. They produce sweet-smelling white flowers in the spring, and they are known to be relatively low-maintenance shrubs.
- Lavender Herbs – (Or Lavandula Angustifolia) Are easy to prune and shape; they can be easily made into cones, columns, or topiary balls. It is easy to care for, needs full sun and well-drained soil, and can withstand various temperatures. It is well-loved due to its fragrance and unique texture.
- Rosemary Herbs – (Or Rosmarinus Officinalis) Loves full sun, is commonly grown in a pot, and has a dense growth habit. It is an aromatic herb which is also best for scented garden designs. It has fine leaves that respond well to pruning, which makes it easy and perfect for shaping.
- Holly – (Or Ilex) is a well-loved shrub. It is slow-growing and known for its glossy green leaves. It is ideal for trimming into different shapes and popularly shaped into lollipop style and a top pick for Christmas for topiary. Some classifications include Japanese Holly, American Holly, and English Holly, commonly used for topiary designs.
- Privet – (Or Ligustrum) Has small leaves, grows quickly, and responds well to pruning, which makes it low maintenance. It is a top choice for topiary hedges and formal shapes because it brings structure to borders and innovative shapes. Common varieties include Common Privet and Japanese Privet.
- Star Jasmine – (Or Trachelospermum Jasminoides) Is an evergreen climber with glossy dark green leaves. It is known for its beauty and fragrance; it carries a star-shaped pure white flower. It is a low-maintenance plant that requires full sun to part shade and regular watering. It can be formed into unique shapes, and the most common topiary shapes for Star Jasmine would be pyramids, cones, and spirals.
- Bay Laurel – (Or Laurus Nobilis) Is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with glossy green leaves. It is often used in cooking but is also an excellent choice in creating topiary shapes. It is adaptable to pruning and shaping. Typically, it is shaped into spirals, cones, and lollipops. It requires full sun to part shade and regular watering.
- Camellia – (Or Camellia Japonica) Is a flowering plant known for its beautiful flowers and glossy evergreen foliage. It looks great in a feature pot. It is available in various colors and sizes, and they are typically shaped into cones, spirals, and balls. Camelia requires partial to full shade and regular watering.
- Photinia – (Or Photinia Serratifolia) Is a popular choice for topiary due to its vibrant evergreen foliage and ability to withstand pruning and shaping. Photinia requires full sun to partial shade, regular watering, and regular inspection for any signs of pests and diseases. Common topiary designs include animal shapes, spirals, and cones.
- Pittosporum – This is a beautiful evergreen shrub that carries fragrant white flowers. It is a popular choice in topiary evergreen foliage due to its ability to withstand pruning and shaping. It grows quickly; hence, it is suitable for hedging and screening. It is a low-maintenance shrub and just needs to be well watered. It is also important to note that it can be sensitive to cold temperatures. Common designs for topiaries include geometric shapes, spheres, spirals, and cones.
10 Common Topiary Shapes and Designs
- Cone – Traditional and most natural looking, it is typically used to create neat and formal elements in the gardens.
- Ball – Considered the most common and iconic among topiary forms.
- Spiral – Easy to create and maintain. Shrubs and evergreen trees are best for this.
- Pyramid – Considered to be formal and straightforward, often used for pathways and entrances.
- Animals – This is for the adventurous, as it requires careful pruning and shaping. It’s suitable for adding a touch of whimsy and fun.
- Human or Figure – This could be complex as it requires attention to detail and patience.
- Word or Letter – Normally used to spell out some words that are suitable for making statements.
- Geometric – Adds a structured and modern look.
- Abstract – Designs are often artistic and creative and are open to interpretation.
- Multi-Tiered Topiary – Includes multiple layers, thus creating an aesthetically captivating impact.
Benefits of Tree Shaping
There are several good reasons why people prefer to have their plants shaped, both practical and aesthetic. Below are some reasons why:
One of the top reasons is enhancing and keeping your trees attractive and appealing. Simply trimming stubborn branches and messy-looking leaves will definitely improve the visual appeal of your landscape.
Properly trimmed topiary hedges of shrubs or trees will serve their purpose, which is to provide a natural wall or boundary between properties or different sections of a garden. This is one practical use of topiary in landscaping in general.
Topiary provides structure and a well-designed ambiance, which promotes a sense of order and keeps everything visually stunning. It sustains the balance of the elements in landscaping.
Overgrown tree branches and leaves pose potential obstructions and hazards, as they can unpredictably fall and, in certain instances, even ignite fires. Well-trimmed trees can help avoid damage during stormy seasons, branches falling off, and leaky roofs, which could hurt you, your family, or anyone on the property.
In some cases, like historic gardens, the topiary is reinforced for restoration and maintaining the original design of trees or landscapes, which helps preserve the historical and cultural integrity of the space.
Topiary boosts creativity not just for gardeners or landscape artists but anyone doing it. It promotes self-expression and cultivates imagination through designing and sculpting living trees and plants into different shapes and forms.
Beautifully shaped trees create visually attractive scenery that promotes a serene environment. This offers a relaxing atmosphere that can be both therapeutic and calming.
Adequately trimmed trees help with the overall health of the tree because weak branches are removed during the process, limbs are checked if there are insect infestations, and proper pruning also prevents diseases and pests. Healthier trees mean a cleaner oxygen supply, which means improved air quality.
Carefully tendered and artistically shaped trees play a significant role in elevating a property’s value. Well-kept trees, coupled with an exquisite lawn and landscaped surroundings, are esteemed as valuable assets that enhance a property’s appeal and desirability.
Strategic pruning can increase the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground, other plants, your home, or other specific areas on the property. This can be beneficial for the gardens, plant health, and solar panels, and it provides warmth, outdoor enjoyment, and natural light.
Why Should You Hire a Professional for Topiary Tree Shaping?
There are numerous reasons why it is often recommended to hire a professional for topiary tree shaping, whether it is for residential or business purposes. Topiary needs very meticulous skills to achieve a very desirable result. It needs precision and patience as sometimes it takes years to resemble the intended shape fully. It requires expertise and experience to grow, prune, and intricately design effectively.
Safety and Legal Aspects
Safety would always be on top of the list. Cutting or shaping a tree may sound like a fun and easy activity, but it can be hazardous, especially for massive trees. Hiring professionals to handle this would save you from potential dangers as they are trained to do this, plus they are knowledgeable about the local regulations and permits needed for tree work.
Knowledge and Expertise
Professional topiary artists are trained, experienced, and equipped with the techniques and knowledge to perform the job safely. They are very well versed in plant growth, plant species, what they require, how to prune them correctly, and all the necessary details for successful pruning.
Whether you have simple or complex designs in mind, professionals can turn your vision into a reality. They have the artistic skills and expertise to execute unique and non-standard shapes and sizes.
Health of Your Plants
Professionals can determine when or if the plants and trees need to be trimmed, which areas to cut, which part is unhealthy, which part is infested, which has a disease, and how to keep them healthy and still thrive even after extensive shaping and pruning. They possess extensive knowledge and expertise in tree assessment, enabling them to make the best decisions for the well-being of your plants.
Tools and Equipment
Tree shaping and cutting require specialized tools and equipment that may not be readily available in your shed; professionals have access to these tools that you may not have. Aside from the necessary gears, they also have the knowledge of how to use them safely and adequately, thus preventing any possible injury along the process.
Tree shaping can be time-consuming and physically demanding. It also needs a lot of patience as the process and result may take time. Some projects may even take several months or years to mature and achieve the desired shape or form fully. Hiring professionals can save you a lot of time and effort.
Professionals execute topiary with a high degree of precision; they can transform an ordinary tree or shrubs into a stunning work of art. They are highly focused on plant health and the quality of work; hence, the results are visually appealing.
Topiary designs require maintenance to keep the shape and form neat. Professionals provide the proper care and trimming to preserve the uniqueness and appeal of the plants.
It is best to hire a professional to avoid common mistakes such as choosing the wrong plant. They can advise on which plants to choose, the best species for a specific location or design, which plant is suitable for this climate, how to maintain them, and all the other plant requirements.
Although hiring a professional may involve an expense, it can ultimately be more cost-effective in the long run by averting accidents and property damage, avoiding dealing with pests and diseases, and ensuring the health of your trees and similar things.
While it’s best to hire a professional when considering topiary tree shaping or cutting, it is also great to be involved and communicate what you wish to achieve. Describing your vision of your landscape or garden would be helpful for professionals to provide a sound recommendation and possibly a draft of what your garden would look like with these beautiful trees artistically shaped.