You may be able to tell by now that I'm in a Modern Country Garden frame of mind. {Garden? Frame? Is there a pun to be had?!}

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Let's focus right in on one of the mainstays of a Modern Country Garden: Topiary. An easy-peasy way to bring new flair to your garden. Today, we'll be looking at... 

What is topiary? 
Why use topiary? 
How to use topiary?

Topiary and roses

What Is Topiary?
Topiary is basically a fancy word for the art of clipping evergreen shrubs into a sculpted shape. Balls, pyramids, spirals, lollipops...and way, waaaaay beyond...

Elephant Ggrass Made Wallpaper

This art dates back to Roman times and has roller-coastered in and out of fashion ever since. Although topiary can be painstakingly grown from scratch, it's far easier, not to mention quicker, to buy ready-formed plants from somewhere reliable like B&Q

Pettifers This Oxfordshire country garden is designed for year-round interest. Photographed by Clive Nichols.

Topiary can be formed from any dense, bush forming shrub, ideally with small leaves. Box (buxus) and privet (ligustrum) are the obvious choices but bay, viburnum and others can work too....


Why Use Topiary?
The enormous advantage of using topiary is that it provides fantastic structure in the winter, when everything looks bleak and bare and, dare I say?...a little bit messy. Topiary acts as an anchor to draw your eye, which leads it away from the soggy leaves and bare stems.

A formal Garden in the Winter

And in the summer {oh! the summer} the rigid form of topiary creates anchors around which softer shapes flourish.

I think this may be Jenny Raworth's beautiful front garden - she used to open regularly for the NGS and may still do so.  Wonderful box pyramids lining the brick path up to the front door.

It's definitely worth starting with specimens of a good size. Take a look at these topiary pyramids which are delivered to your door at about 2 feet high....and with the potential to grow far taller in time.

Villa Augustus gardens

How To Use Topiary?

Today, let's limit ourselves to the delights of pyramid topiary, which are fantastic for...

Window boxes:
Planted in groups, and paired with a soft white palette....

Box Pyramids Add Year-Round Color to Windowsills

Pyramids are perfect to frame front doors, without taking up too much room. And just imagine how gorgeous they'd look at Christmas garlanded with fairy lights....

Beautiful entrance

...or any kind of entrance...

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Pyramid topiary can add an extra dimension to parterres (a technical term for an ornamental arrangement of flower beds)...

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...Or a knot garden (a formal garden laid out in an intricate design)...the pyramids act to lead the eye to specific points of interest.

Paul Bangay

Topiary works particularly well with bulbs (more on that next time)...


...and always looks stunning in groupings. See how the formal shape of pyramids brings life to this avenue...

Wollerton Old Hall A formal plantsman's garden with garden 'rooms' each with their own defining style. Photographed by Clive Nichols.

One of my favourite ways to use topiary is in groupings within existing flower beds. This is such a simple, accessible way to bring the WOW factor into your garden....or my garden, which I'll be sharing more about shortly!

Wonderful topiary in this agapanthus garden in France.


Images via: Clive Nicholls, athoughtfuleye, photfurl, Clive Nicholls, Gary Rogers, favourite photo, Raworth Garden, madelief, HGTV, boxwood terrace, Mackenzie Horan, unknown, flickr, The Arch Observer, Clive Nicholls

 
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