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Which plants to use

There are a few popular choices when it comes to topiary plants - boxwood, yew and evergreen are some of the most common because they’re low maintenance, but that doesn’t mean they’re your only options. Look for a species that is hardy, tolerant of pruning, and has a nice texture. For the best results, it should ideally be a shrub or tree with small leaves like juniper, holly, privet or even lavender. Something that can narrow down your decision is the shape you want. It helps to pick a plant that lends itself to your design, so if you want a topiary cone, you’ll need a tall plant that grows upright.

Tools for the job

Having the right tools is one of the easiest ways to make sure you get the results you want. For starters you need something to trim and cut with; a good pair of topiary shears or secateurs will have you covered for smaller branches and harder-to-reach areas where precise work is required. For larger pieces, you’ll want something a bit bigger to save you some time. A hedge trimmer has good reach and plenty of power to make light work things, or you could do it the old fashioned way with a pair of hand shears. A good pair of gardening gloves will keep your hands protected while you work.

Starting your topiary

Some of the easiest shapes to start with are balls, pyramids and cubes. Once you’re ready to make a start, plant your chosen shrub or tree. Have one upright shoot as your main stem and tie it to a cane or stake, then remove all others. Get rid of any shoots and foliage from the lower part of the main stem until it reaches your desired height. Now you can start clipping it into shape- whether you want to do it by eye or use a frame is entirely up to you. The plant will eventually bush out as it matures, which means the branches and leaves become tightly packed together to give it the solid appearance you’re after. Let it get to your desired height before you trim the main leader.

Care and maintenance

Once you’ve established your topiary hedge, all that’s left to do is the occasional bit of care and maintenance. You can normally get away with only trimming once or twice a year, just to help it retain its shape. You might have to make an exception for faster growing species and trim twice or more each season. Try to prune on overcast days, as doing it on hot days with bright sunshine can scorch the new leaves. Other than that, just apply mulch while the plant grows and water often during the summer.

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