Believed to have been invented by a friend of the Roman Emperor Augustus, topiary plants have become a popular choice of accents for large properties. The shaping and pruning of trees brings life and creativity to the wildness.
The art of topiary, or tree masonry, was frequently practiced in England and the Netherlands during the 18th century because stonework was expensive; this explains why places, such as Italy and France, have fewer topiaries.
Whether you have a small backyard in the GTA or a grand estate in Europe, topiaries are a perfect addition to any garden.
Types of Topiaries
The evergreen shrubs that are mostly used for tree masonry consist of the box, cypress, and yew. Some homeowners and garden enthusiasts can also be successful in transforming rosemary, holly, and box honeysuckle plants.
Box is often the garden enthusiast’s plant of choice because its versatile and will trim it in late spring so the box develops side shoots. These shoots must be tended to in midsummer because this period provides a perfect sculpting surface for you to mould. With the rest of the summer, you will be able to enjoy your new topiary design until the early autumn when it develops more side shoots. This is the final time you will have to design it before the winter arrives.
Like any plant, topiaries can contract diseases so they need to be tended to on a regular basis. With a sufficient amount of sunlight, water, and air, a topiary will thrive. Although, there are issues that may arise, including:
- Pests. Small leaf burrowing or scaled insects can go after the leaves. The only way to stop them is by removing the affected areas and spraying an insecticide.
- Diseases. If topiaries are not placed in good locations, they can develop fungi. If this occurs, remove the affected area and change its location based on the topiary’s need, such as changing the soil if it’s too dry or too wet. Spraying with a fungicide will fight against extreme conditions, like if your plant has black leaves or leaves that frequently fall off.
- Brown foliage. Topiaries will develop brown leaves when they aren’t getting enough nutrients or when they’re exposed to low temperatures. Giving the plant fertilizer will usually bring it back to normal.
- Yellow-tipped foliage. There is nothing you can do to remedy this because it is a sign of stress. Young topiaries display yellow-tipped leaves after they’ve been transplanted, and older ones will show it when they’ve been potted. Aside from the regular care they need, it’s important to leave the topiary alone for it to improve by itself. Some “me time” can be quite beneficial.
Popular Topiary Designs
Today, topiaries have been pruned into all kinds of designs, from geometric shapes—like spheres and cubes—to animals—like elephants, peacocks, and lions—to famous landmarks, such as the stones faces on Easter Island. Topiaries are also used to create short and tall labyrinths, whether for decoration or for practical use. Property owners and homeowners incorporate topiaries into their garden to add a sense of whimsy and character. On extravagant estates, topiaries create a magical atmosphere, leading one to believe they are in a fairytale. Some famous gardens with topiaries include the Marqueyssac Gardens in France with bulbous and swirling box plants; Levens Hall with triangular box and yew trees and a great beech hedge; and lastly, Disney World’s theme park garden of cartoon characters.
Add a Little Whimsy
Looking for a way to make you garden more fun and extravagant without going to too much trouble? Topiaries are the answer. Although you will need appropriate cutting and shaping tools to accommodate your topiaries—as well as some TLC—that’s a small price to pay compared to the magic and allure they give your property. Ask our landscaping experts for topiary advice and what they recommend for your unique area.
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