Gardening – November 2023 – Issue 339


Beyond The Box

This issue our gardening expert Conrad McCormick discusses topiary.

The history of topiary dates back to ancient times when humans first sought to tame and sculpt nature’s unruly forms into pleasing shapes. This art form has evolved over millennia, transcending cultures and traditions, and continues to thrive in modern and contemporary gardens.
Topiary, derived from the Latin word ‘topiarius’, meaning a landscape gardener or a creator of topia (places), is an ancient horticultural art that can be traced back to the Roman Empire. The Romans, renowned for their penchant for grandeur, sculpted shrubs and trees into intricate shapes, often depicting animals, gods, and mythological figures. These elaborate garden designs adorned the villas of the wealthy elite and served as symbols of opulence and power. During the Renaissance in Europe, topiary experienced a resurgence in popularity. Gardens became canvases for intricate geometric designs, intricate parterres, and ornate green sculptures, showing man’s domination over nature.
Suitable plants can be sculpted into striking architectural forms, such as spheres, cones, pyramids, and spirals, serving as focal points within a garden design, placed as focal points at the end of pathways or, a ball of box or yew located at the end of a border can act almost as a full stop. Topiary adds visual interest and contrast to contemporary gardens, breaking up softer perennial plantings, adding bulk to the froth, as well as providing important winter structure and some permanence to borders that die back to ground level in the colder months.

Read more in the November issue…


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