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Figured story and topiary in the style of "six acres"

Armed with the knowledge from books and the experience of their friends, the most "advanced" gardeners are slowly, by trial and error, approaching the real heights of garden art, which only professionals can conquer. One of these peaks is topiary art.


"Topiary" or "topiary" is the art of giving a plant a decorative shape by cutting it. Basically the same haircut. Although, looking at the figurative plant splendor that can be found in parks around the world, one can understand experts who prefer to call this area of ​​garden art "in a foreign manner." After all, the language does not dare to say that all these amazingly beautiful plants, as if created by the magic wand of a garden fairy, were simply trimmed!

Agra, IndiaTrimming a topiary hedge in Agra

True, gardeners, even beginners, will never say this frivolous "just". The art of topiary is indeed one of the most laborious and painstaking, requiring not only professional skills and artistic taste, but also tremendous patience. This, by the way, could be confirmed even by the ancient Romans, who are considered the founders of topiary art.

Figure story

The English word "topiary" that we use now comes from the Latin "topiarius", which means gardener. Many historians claim that the fashion for clipped plants came to Ancient Rome from the Mediterranean and Asia. But, in any case, the first written sources telling about gardens decorated with hedges, figures of animals and birds, intricate initials of owners and gardeners belong to the Romans.

After the fall of the great empire, topiary art found refuge in monasteries - the main centers of culture of that time. The layout of the ancient "figured" gardens can still be seen in the surviving manuscripts.

The next burst of fashion for topiary fell on the Renaissance. Wealthy Italians wanted to see in their palazzo the same luxury and grace as the ancient patricians in their palace and park estates. Some of those wonderful works of garden art still exist in Italy - Castello Baldino, Villa Garzoni, Villa Caprarola, d'Este, Lante, etc.

In the Renaissance, residents of the Netherlands became ardent admirers of topiary. Firstly, they often traveled and brought many outlandish species of plants, and secondly, the land in their homeland was very expensive, and the "compact" style of garden art came in handy in small Dutch gardens.

Garden Museum Geelvinck-Hinlopen in AmsterdamGarden Museum Geelvinck-Hinlopen in Amsterdam

England and France did not lag behind the Netherlands. In these countries, green labyrinths and hedges were very popular, which undoubtedly developed the skill of gardeners. Numerous documents of the 17th century indicate that in the gardens of the nobility of that time one could find not only perfectly even "fences" of various plants, but also balls, cones, figures of real and mythical animals, silhouettes of people and even the coats of arms of the owners. Moreover, skilled gardeners, with the help of cleverly trimmed delicate foliage or fragrant needles, could create whole hunting scenes or sketches from rural life. Even the green fences became real works of art here.

Old English Garden Naimans

As for the French monarchy and its famous regular park style, glorifying the absolute power of the emperor, then the art of topiary turned out to be in demand and appropriate here. A vivid example of this is one of the most luxurious gardens in the world, the landscape park of the Palace of Versailles.


In the 18th century, the landscape style replaced the strict regular style.The English nobility, having admired enough green "geometry", felt an acute shortage of natural natural lines and living forms. Of course, there was no place for "barbaric molding" of plants in the landscape style garden, and topiary art again had to make room. However, by the 19th century, these "landscape austerities" softened somewhat, and the elements of the English and French gardens could peacefully coexist side by side, giving the right to exist and the art of decorative shearing of plants.

Currently, topiary style gardens can be found all over the world, from India and China to the United States. Cleveden, Canons Ashby, Levens Hall in England, Arboretum Hannewell, Longwood, Columbus Topiary Park in the USA, Nishat Gardens, Amber, Pijor in India, magnificent Sanssouci in Germany, Fontainebleau Gardens, Bressy, Chantigny, Villandry in France, our Kuskovo , Petrodvorets, Tsarskoe Selo ... These famous names are just a small part of examples of topiary art. Looking into these man-made corners of paradise, one can be convinced that topiary is a separate world, which is not only a testament to the skill and rich imagination of a gardener, but also an expression of a certain philosophy and a sign of an exquisite lifestyle.


For example, the world-famous figure of Mickey Mouse at Disneyland is the company's "label" that sets you up for a cheerful, carefree mood. And parks entirely dedicated to green sculptures of dinosaurs are both entertainment and a source of new knowledge for visitors.

Having visited the park, where absolutely everything, from the main alley to a small flower, accurately reproduces the picture of the famous artist, you experience a special aesthetic pleasure. And how wonderful the garden looks, the graceful sheared hedges of which symbolize romantic experiences and stories! There is a place here for light excitement, and wild jealousy, and blood shed in a duel because of a lady of the heart, and letters from a windy beloved, and shed tears of loneliness ... Can you imagine how to express all these feelings with the help of a shorn bush? And philosophers from topiary not only represent, but for centuries have embodied all these vivid emotions in various garden elements.

Topiary in the style of "six hundred parts"

Can you and I tell the world about our feelings in such an unusual way? Yes, of course, but for this you have to try hard.

If you seriously decide to take up the art of topiary, study as much literature on this topic as possible. Do not limit yourself to one or two articles in popular magazines - to understand the basics of this technology, you need to “shovel” more than one publication. The first and most important thing that you can take away from any book or magazine is that curly trimming of plants is a very difficult, responsible, and, most importantly, unhurried business.

Indian hare

Do not expect that in a month a green hare or a lion on your site will attract the envious glances of neighbors and passers-by. Of course, you can purchase a ready-made topiary form that will instantly decorate the front porch of the house or the “guest” part of the garden. However, do not forget - this is a living plant, and if you do not constantly care for it, do not maintain its ideal shape and, most importantly, do not cherish it ten times more than usual, your expensive topiary will quickly disappear.

Unfortunately, our northern conditions do not allow gardeners to "swing" especially in the choice of plants. Perhaps on sale you will find a wide variety of trees and shrubs, but not all of them will be able to withstand our temperature changes, as well as wind and high humidity. Most landscape designers recommend small-leaved linden, field maple, common spruce, Japanese spireas, common barberry, Cossack or medium juniper, brilliant cotoneaster, snowberry, barberry, western thistle, currant, chokeberry as the basis for the north-western topiary.


Undoubtedly, their decorativeness plays a huge role in the choice of plants. Therefore, looking out for the "experimental" bush, pay attention to specimens with small leaves (needles). Neatly trimmed, they form a dense "terry" surface without gaps and "bald spots". It is desirable that the selected variety be characterized by rather slow growth. In addition, the plant should form new shoots throughout its life, and there should be a lot of "dormant" buds on its trunk. One of the most suitable options for novice topiary can be Japanese spirea. With its help, you can create low, but rather graceful and dense garden sculptures.

Your choice should also be determined by what kind of plant shape you want to get. Achievements of topiary art can be divided into several groups. The first, seemingly the simplest, is a sheared hedge. It would seem that it could be easier - to plant several bushes of the same species in a row, trim and enjoy the green wall instead of a boring fence! Moreover, with the help of such a hedge, you can zone the garden space, reliably hide from neighbors' gaze, highlight and decorate a playground or create an unusual frame for a flower bed. However, in practice, it is not so easy to cut the shrub evenly. Serving the muse topiary does not tolerate any fuss, and you will get a perfectly even green "fence" at best in the fourth or fifth year of constant haircuts.


  • Don't skimp on a good tool. To create a garden sculpture, you will need trellis shears, a pruner (or their electric version - pneumatic shears and brush cutters), a garden saw, and a delimber.
  • If you are arranging a hedge on your site, do not forget to purchase "spare" plants. They need to be planted somewhere in the garden and cut in the same way as their counterparts in the "green wall". For a low hedge (up to 1 m), Thunberg barberry, dwarf varieties of snowberry and western thuja are suitable. For green "fences" (up to 1.8 m high), you can choose linden, thuja, spruce, and from shrubs - large varieties of barberry, cotoneaster, juniper.
  • You may well create your own backyard green art. To do this, you need a pot, a wire frame attached to it, and two or three small-leaved ivy planted along the edge of the pot. As the vines grow, braid the frame with them, tie up the whips, pinch their tops so that the plant branches better, and cut off the side shoots. This green sculpture will decorate your garden in summer and your home in winter.

Always fit

The next step, more coveted by many garden romantics, is plant sculpture. It will take several years of painstaking efforts for something to form in your garden that could be identified as a "duck" or "turtle" not only by you, but also by your guests. But a novice gardener, in any case, should not tackle the creation of such complex shapes. Start with simple geometric shapes: cube, ball, cone. After five years of regular pruning, you will have a perfectly tolerable "globe". For convenience, you can use a special wire frame. Anything that "looks" out of the mesh will need to be cut off.

Not so long ago, another branch of the art of creating green sculptures was formed - the so-called "green art". Unusual street structures - clear figures and graceful statues - seem to be entirely composed of flowers or variegated colored plants. In fact, these are metal frames filled with moss, earth and foam, where creeping annuals and vines are planted. Another option is many cells, into which pots with bright begonias, marigolds, coleus, etc. are inserted. A hose for irrigation is supplied inside the structure. Like many beautiful things, such statues do not live long, only one season.

Another option for topiary can be called a trellis - the molding of plants in one plane.The branches are pulled in a line, thanks to which you can get not only a spectacular detail of the country landscape - a beautiful green corridor, but also, say, a rather economical orchard in terms of area.

Green art (Stavropol)Japanese bonsai

Various shapes can be given to standard trees, cutting them, for example, in the form of a cube or a cylinder. Perhaps the most interesting and difficult option here can be a kind of gazebo made of several trunks of standard trees with a combined crown.

The famous Japanese bonsai can also be considered a kind of topiary. Indeed, according to this technology, it is necessary not only to change the shape of the branches, but also to cut them. Growing a bonsai yourself is very difficult, but of course you can create something in this style. The main thing, again, is not to make a mistake in choosing a plant. Perhaps, in our conditions, the most suitable basis will be conifers - pine and juniper.

Topiary's golden rules

In any case, whichever form you choose, you need to create a topiary taking into account several "golden" rules:

  • the plant must be at least five years old;
  • you cannot trim newly transplanted bushes and trees - this can only be done in a year, when they are sufficiently strong;
  • it is highly undesirable to remove more than a third of the green mass at a time - the plant may not withstand such cruel treatment;
  • you should not arrange your "hairdressing" experiments more than twice a year and before winter;
  • a tree or shrub, the shape of which has been artificially changed, becomes especially vulnerable to the vagaries of nature, therefore, it is now necessary to nourish and cherish it especially carefully.

If, after imagining all the difficulties, you still did not deviate from your plan, then you are the same enthusiast who will certainly succeed.

Your personal Versailles is waiting for you!

Based on materials "Landscape solutions" No. 2 (04).

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