Topiaries 101

Searching for unusual and beautiful topiaries is one of my passions. Whether it was in my garden or inside my house, you would find a topiary within view. Friends would say, “Look at that topiary, you must already have it”. Well the truth is I do like my topiaries. I pride myself in nurturing them and shaping them into creative shapes to enjoy.

As you walk through the greenhouse section of your local nursery, you will often see tall and beautiful examples of topiaries. Herbal topiaries made from myrtle or rosemary are the most common. Herbal topiaries have a long history dating back centuries. The Greeks and Romans loved shaping different plant varieties into their favorite forms. Therefore, history validates my admiration of these elegant plants!

Gardeners who have never attempted outdoor topiaries often feel that labor-intensive techniques are involved in forming a shape that may take many years to reach maturity. This is not so. Many nurseries and garden centers have beautiful and symmetrical mature topiaries ready for purchase that can be planted immediately. You may be motivated to start your own topiaries from scratch as an artistic endeavor. This takes time, practice and you are well advised to take a course at your local botanical garden. The good news for most of us, however, is that lovely shaped specimens are available at most nurseries. Over the years, I have created and purchased some beautiful topiaries for my garden such as: my favorite matching lilac topiaries, my matching Molineux standards, and many ivy, evergreen, azalea, and boxwood topiaries which thrive and serve as garden bed anchors. Outdoor topiaries planted in the ground should receive the same watering as all the rest of your garden. However, if growing in a pot, you should water them daily. Each spring I await my lilac and rose blooms and their amazing fragrance. I purposely planted each of the lilacs in front of my living-room windows so I can enjoy the smell inside and out. The only requirement to adding a topiary to your garden is the confidence to select and place each plant to visual advantage and draw your guests eyes to these dramatic plants.

Care Tips for your indoor topiaries:

Use sharp pruning shears to keep the leaves well trimmed to honor the original shape. Bright Southern or Western exposure is best in a bright sunny window. In summer, I put all of my indoor topiaries outside to allow them to strengthen in the direct sunlight and moist air. Indoors, turn the topiary frequently. Protect your furniture with a saucer under the pot. A clay saucer may match your pot, but it is too porous and will get your wood furniture wet. Water every 4 to 5 days or as needed. Never let the soil completely dry out. The same applies if you put your topiary pots outside in summer — water religiously. These topiaries look wonderful throughout the house, but people often forget to water them. Be vigilant; they will die quickly if not watered. That would be a bad thing.

Keep above 50 degrees and at or around room temperature. Keep away from extreme heat or cold drafts. In very hot sunny climates, give your potted topiaries only a few hours of sun. Buy a soluble organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion and apply every 2 weeks. Follow instructions on the package.

With the proper maintenance, you too can enjoy the pleasures of your own elegant topiary for years to come.

And there you have it.