Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

IT'S SHEAR MADNESS; Go Crazy with Clippers to Set Your Garden Apart, Says HANNAH STEPHENSON

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

IT'S SHEAR MADNESS; Go Crazy with Clippers to Set Your Garden Apart, Says HANNAH STEPHENSON

Article excerpt

Byline: HANNAH STEPHENSON

IF you've visited stately homes and gardens this summer and admired the architectural beauty of evergreen spheres and cones, beautifully clipped mazes, evergreen peacocks and other statuesque shapes, you may be inspired to create your own topiary.

This art of training plants into intricate shapes and forms may seem an occupation for the extremely skilled and artistic gardener, but now, as many of us are trimming our hedges, it's worth considering a few simple tricks of the topiary trade.

You can create a whimsical shape from a plant which will be both eye-catching and a topic of conversation when spotted.

START WITH SIMPLE SHAPES BALLS, pyramids, cones and obelisks are among the easiest shapes to start with, according to the RHS. Choose a young, wellproportioned plant such as box or yew, which can be tightly clipped for detailed work. They are slow-growing, so once their shape is established it should be fairly easy to maintain. You can also use holly, privet and the evergreen honeysuckle Lonicera nitida.

Wire frames are widely available to create the shape you want and flexible young shoots can be tied into the frame to create bushy growth. Sideshoots can be cut regularly back to two or three buds to encourage branching. When the plant is growing, make sure the ties aren't cutting into the stems. Stems facing downwards will grow the slowest and need to be tied in regularly, while vertical growth is the quickest.

LARGER STATUES NEED OPEN SITES INDIVIDUAL specimens can be grown in pots, but if you are after something bigger they will be more likely to succeed in an open sunny, sheltered site.

As both box and yew are slow-growing, they only need trimming twice a year once their shape is established, in early summer and early autumn.

If you are starting from scratch, choose a plant that already has the makings of a shape, such as a dome or spire, so all you have to do is exaggerate it.

Common ivy can easily be trained into formal shapes with, say, the help of sweet pea rings, to grow around metal hoops or arches against a wall. Dwarf conifers can also be used to make effective architectural shapes, while upright varieties are ideal for training into obelisks or spires. …

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