December 28, 2009

Holiday topiary get a trim for the new year

The art of training shrubs and trees into standard topiary shapes, comes and goes with the fashion of the moment, just as bonsai become trendy, or certain colors in flower. But I've always found this style of training plants fascinating, and fun. Topiary styles have changed over time, but the earliest form of Mytrus species ( Myrtle's, which these are) , started in the Roman
times of Pliny the Younger. The form came back into fashion in Europe during the 16th Century, when the French clipped hedges and elaborate gardens with parterres complete with cones, spirals and even shapes that depicted animals. In Britain, the art form really thrived in the late 19th C., and it was the wealthy industrialists, who introduced the artform to America in their private estate conservatories and greenhouses.

I really enjoy keeping and training various topiaried tender trees and shrubs, in the temperate greenhouse in my garden. Here, in my studio, I am giving some of the Myrtles a trim and clip, before returning them to the glass house where temperatures are colder, and moist. Nothing kills a Myrtle faster than the combination of winter dry air indoors, and a lack of water, which is what I will undoubtedly do. The same goes for Rosemary, of which, about a third of my topiary's are.

This past September, I took cutting from the various topiary trees I keep, so that new ones can be started, since there comes a point when they outgrow their size, and the sphere's become either too dense, or grow out of scale.I've let a number of Rosemary topiary freeze this autumn, since they seem to outgrow their form faster than Myrtles. Other Genus are kept in the greenhouse until they bloom, for they require different treatments, such as Citrus, Westringia and those plants in the legume family.

1 comment :

  1. I fell in love with the topiary form when working at Longwood Gardens in 1986. It was a summer to remember. Pat Hammer was still at Longwood. We worked on the coleus standards when I was in her section. I will never forget those buddleia and lantana topiary grown there in the ground during the summer months.


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