Nothing is quite as satisfying as a finished clipped specimen of topiary, only slightly more satisfying is the springy green-ness of it as it starts to flourish forth in the early summer months. Good topiary plants are usually small leaved and tolerant of being copious clipped on an annual basis. Some more tolerant than others. Of late the Topiarists beloved Buxus sempervirens – Box has been afflicted with blight (Cylindrocladium buxicola and Volutella buxi), which requires drastic removal and burning of affected specimens as there is no cure. Notable evergreen alternatives are Ilex – Holly (I.crenata is a favorite for replacing box) and Laurus nobilis – Bay but of course one can still resort to the wonderfully dense and slow growing Taxus baccata – Yew, Ligustrum japonicum – Privet or Lonicera nitida – Japanese honeysuckle, though this is a bit of a fast growing hairy monster.
In spring the tiny soft green leaves emerge all over a clipped plant, giving it a fuzzy, fresh look. Then the heat and sunlight ripen the leaves and the plant turns to a glossy finish, maybe not yew so much but it does darken as it ages.
There is humor in topiary, not just in the recognisable shapes of animals or household objects or even just objet but in the flippant accentuating of a plants features, nipping in at an imaginary waist of allowing a blousy topknot to come to fruition.
On a recent garden visit to Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons we discovered that the Chef Patron like his shapes un-pointy so soft, curvy topped pyramids or orbs are the order of the day and one has to say it is most pleasing.
Are you a fan of lush lines of clipped planting or just an inter-planter for the sake of some winter structure?