JOHN’S JOURNAL

The Timeless World of Topiary

The art of topiary dates back many centuries, the earliest reference to it is back in the days of an early ancient Roman Emperor Augustus, whose friend is said to have invented it back in the 1st Century. Now fly forward a few centuries and here we are mastering the art of trimming, pruning and training bushes and trees into different shapes and forms. Topiary can either be grown in pots or in the ground and as far as pot grown plants go there are so many shapes to choose from whether it be spirals, balls, pom-poms, duo, trio and quattro balls plus egyptian pyramids and cones it can be often shaped into anything, even a dog or a rabbit is always possible training it around a wire frame! Fruit trees are often trained in different ways, against a wall is one way in their flat fan or espalier forms, and then trees can be trained into pleached airborne hedges, there really is no limit! 

The most common position for topiary is always in pots and containers, it’s the perfect counterpart to any entrance in the garden whether it be either side of the front door or either side of some steps, it gives something with some form, structure and shape to help accentuate this and lead the eye to this part of the garden. You will find a few evergreen topiary choices and a traditional English choice is to use Box (Buxus sempervirens), it has a lovely coloured green leaf and responds well to regular trimming and shaping. Yew can also be trimmed and maintained in a variety of shapes and forms and in the garden they can be grown as dramatic specimens, Japanese Holly is also another great substitute for Box and perfect for hedges where the ventilation can be poorer and there is the risk of Box Blight, this can sometimes affect Box planted and surrounded by other planting but out on its own in a pot the ventilation is good and also there are Health mixes available now to help solve this problem. 

Now when keeping established plants in pots you’re very much recreating a bonsai environment, restricted roots causing restricted growth, but it is essential to keep the plants watered and topped up with nutrients, otherwise they will lose their fresh green for something more yellow and orange in appearance, if they dry out they will also lose their leaves a few weeks later, so it’s essential to pick a large enough pot in the first place and then also use the right soil, which in this case is John Innes No,3 and then simply feed twice a year with topiary feed in March/April and again in September, then simply trim after their growth flushes in the Spring and Summer and sit back and admire your masterpieces!

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Here you can send in and find out the answers to those gardening problems

What’s the best compost for topiary in Pots?

Any mature plants which will be grown in a pot thrive in John Innes No.3, it has the most nutrients available in the John Innes Range and it is also a soil based compost so it has the ability to hold nutrients for a longer period of time, it also has a better ability to hold moisture and will keep them nice and happy. Yew and Japanese Holly appreciate some ericaceous compost being mixed in as well as they thrive with an acidic pH.

Will topiary grow in sun or shade?

Box, Yew or Japanese Holly will all grow in both, you will find in sun it requires more attention with watering during the season, and that’s the main requirement, just check you’re pots during dry spells to prevent them drying out too much, as once that soil dries out that’s when its harder to get water back into it.

Can I use Chicken pellets to feed topiary?

It’s always best to stick to the specialist feeds and for Topiary use a topiary feed, you will find it’s got the correct balance of all the nutrients and will help keep the foliage nice and green along with giving it the energy it needs for root development and general well being. Happily use your chicken pellets on hedges and any plants you just want to encourage growth on, keep away from your perennials with it as they will be flopping over come June.

 

JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND

 

Plant of The Week

Standard Hydrangeas

Beautifully trained into small trees they always keep a straight stem with their growth appearing on the top producing many flowers during the Summer months. Prune back hard in the Spring and they look great in pots or in the ground.