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Boxing clever for a classic garden look; If you love the idea of a formal garden with a contemporary feel, topiary may be the way to go, says Hannah Stephenson GARDENING.

I HAVE to admit it, I love formal gardens, those with a definite structure, sense of purpose and everything in its place.

Clipped box hedges, strong geometry using evergreens shaped carefully into balls and pyramids, evenly spaced in uniform lines or sections, can give a garden a contemporary lift. Even a couple of box balls or standard bays in pots either side of your front door can give your home a grand entrance feel.

If you want to add some formality to your patio this summer as a backdrop or accompaniment to pots which are full of colourful blooms, topiary may be the answer.

Potted topiary can add emphasis to a garden design, for example, placing uniformly clipped globes along the edge of a path. Shaped plants are often used in formal settings but can also act as valuable exclamation marks in more informal schemes.

Among the plants easiest to shape to your requirements are box (Buxus sempervirens), sweet bay (Laurus nobilis), yew (Taxus baccata) and privet (Ligustrum delavayanum).

While slow-growing evergreens are the traditional topiary plants, you can use climbers to cover wire frames for a faster result.

Beginners should start with a simple box ball or bay pyramid that has already been trained to shape and keep it that way by trimming it twice a year, in early summer and early autumn. Potted topiary also needs to be watered well in summer and protected from frost in winter, so it's best to place it near the house.

As your topiary grows, clip it very lightly every couple of months, taking off the tips of the shoots, to keep its natural shape while it grows and encourage branching, which will help thicken the shape.

If you are trimming a ball or dome, stand above the plant, turning the shears upside down so that the shape of the blade follows the curve.

Keep walking around and standing back to view the shape, making sure everything is even.

For a quick fix, grow some plain green ivy over a wire topiary frame to create a traditional effect much quicker. Just plant the ivy around the rim of the pot and twine the trails around the wires of the frame. The leaves should hold the stems in place and you can snip off unwanted shoots.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 23, 2013
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