I continue to vividly remember noticing topiary for the first time. I was just 3 or 4 a long time previous, using the bus into the local industry town close to where we lived in Dorset to go searching with my mother. I normally required to sit upstairs so I could see over the hawthorn hedge of a unique household we handed, enthralled by the remarkable wedding ceremony-cake clipped yew in the front garden. It was so specific, so perfectly shaped, and I was mesmerized.
In practically all the gardens I’ve developed all over the entire world since I started my exercise in 1986, I have employed topiary to some degree, no question affected by these early recollections. Ordinarily, topiary was deemed a pretty formal aspect, linked with massive, grand gardens and established out in rigid designs to intensify axes and punctuate official spaces. Opulence in garden style and design, including the use of these clipped shapes, was normally a symbol of position, signifying prosperity and ability. Nonetheless, my desire is for a far more informal, asymmetrical type, applying uncomplicated shapes—domes, balls, and layered cones—to deliver an factor of exciting to a yard. This design and style is influenced by the far more naïve, natural shapes located in modest cottage gardens—often introduced by gardeners who were employed by grander properties and who preferred a little whimsy in their spaces.
Both way, topiary provides long-lasting construction to a backyard garden. In their new e-book, Winter Gardens, Clare Foster and Andrew Montgomery eloquently show how planted construction holds the garden collectively above the winter months, its bare bones uncovered and its toughness emphasised by a dusting of snow or glistening frost. It is this power and class that I attempt for, using a range of trees and styles to achieve a harmonious group of “players” that have you by way of and all-around a back garden, foremost the way and marking modifications in its environment or tempo.
I adore that topiary is making the most of a renaissance now. We’re looking at it employed extra in modern day garden layout, in which designs like platforms and cubes choose up the type and style and design of present day qualities and anchor a much larger house in its landscape. Equally, topiary can sense really Elizabethan—an era I am constantly influenced by—bringing scale and antiquity to a residence. Domes and balls can soften gateways and changeover details. And by clipping native trees, this sort of as field maple, we can reduce the diploma of formality, adding an aspect of surprise and naivety. Copper beech is a common alternative in up to date types, pleached or clipped in levels or spirals, but also satisfies much more historic landscapes and adds more coloration to the backyard garden in colder months as it retains its dried bronze leaves until finally the new progress pushes through in spring. Yew and box can insert bodyweight and, grouped closely collectively, can enable give a sense of enclosure, secrecy, or suspense.
I carry on to be influenced by gardens that celebrate the artwork of topiary, this kind of as Levens Corridor in Cumbria where a enjoy of clipped trees is a should for guests! Its exuberance and sheer scale flawlessly showcase topiary as a horticultural art kind. Even a fleeting take a look at to this garden—or any of the a lot of great topiary displays—is a superb tonic, inviting you to immerse yourself in the trees and ponder at their attractiveness.
This post originally appeared in the March/April 2022 problem of VERANDA. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer illustrations by Tug Rice created by Dayle Wood created by Arne Maynard