What is Topiary?
The art of clipping and shearing the shrubs, small trees and sometimes even herbaceous perennials into ornamental or abstract shapes is known as topiary. Topiary can be the most exciting feature of a garden with the forms of birds, animals, beasts, humans and lot more. The term is derived from Roman word "Topiaria" which means Ornamental Gardening. This art started in the first century AD or even earlier.
Plants which have numerous dark-green foliage and ability, stand frequent clipping and shearing, are suitable for topiary work. It takes many years to train and shape plants to attain desired shapes and sizes. A lot of attention, a substantial amount of labor, and a group of dedicated gardeners are involved in raising such plants. Since topiary plants will last for a long time, thorough preparation of the ground by deep digging is needed before planting.
- In topiary, it is possible to attain shapes of different types. Simple shapes such as a globe, sphere, dome, table, chair, cube are not difficult to achieve. These forms can be given without help of any prefabricated molded wire model.
- When figures of birds, animals or human beings are to be shaped, a lot of patience and perseverance is needed. These are to be obtained by preparing a rough outline with wires and then training the shrub along the frame and clipping carefully over the years to get the desired shape. The branches are tied carefully to the frames without causing any injury.
- It should be borne in mind that whatever form is chosen, it should have a broader base. For example, a peacock standing over a substantial base such as dome/cube is more impressive than standing on its own. Once the base is made, the bird is shaped along the outline of the wire frame.
- It may take about 3-4 years of clipping and training to obtain the general shape. Pruning of the shrub is not done randomly. The objective should be that any shoot or branch which can be trained into the framework should not be pruned. The shoot tips and foliage that tend to grow out of frame should be trimmed regularly.
Topiary gives the impression of the old world and goes well with old buildings and cottage gardens. The topiary feature gives your garden a classical or vintage look, and it can be fitted into a formal garden. In India, the hanging gardens (Kamala Nehru Park) of Mumbai is famous for its topiary work.
Topiary plants in India:
- Different shapes of birds, animals, etc. are done with Clerodendrum inerme, Duranta plumeria, and Bougainvillea.
- Other shrubs used are Malphigia, Murraya exotica, and species of Hibiscus.
- Trees like Thuja, Ficus benjamina, Cypress, Putranjiva, Polyalthia are also used to shape domes, cones, spheres, umbrellas, etc.
- In hill stations, Buxus sempervirens and Taxus baccata are widely used for topiary work.
- Chrysanthemums, especially the small flowering types, can be trained into various shapes such as a table, chair, bird, animal, etc.
Read more about ‘Displaying foliage plants using Topiary shapes.’