May 25, 2024


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British Garden Designer Arne Maynard on Topiary Design

I even now vividly keep in mind noticing topiary for the initially time. I was just 3 or 4 several years outdated, using the bus into the local marketplace city near the place we lived in Dorset to go buying with my mom. I always wished to sit upstairs so I could see above the hawthorn hedge of a certain dwelling we handed, enthralled by the incredible wedding day-cake clipped yew in the front yard. It was so precise, so properly shaped, and I was mesmerized.

arne maynard side garden topiary garden wales
A lattice of box, alongside one another with yew domes and box balls, presents construction to softer plantings in Maynard’s facet back garden.

Britt Willoughby Dyer

In almost all the gardens I have made close to the planet given that I started my exercise in 1986, I have used topiary to some diploma, no doubt motivated by those people early recollections. Ordinarily, topiary was viewed as a quite formal component, linked with big, grand gardens and set out in rigid designs to accentuate axes and punctuate formal areas. Opulence in backyard style, which includes the use of these clipped shapes, was typically a symbol of status, signifying prosperity and electrical power. Even so, my preference is for a more casual, asymmetrical type, making use of very simple shapes—domes, balls, and layered cones—to convey an aspect of entertaining to a backyard garden. This style is impressed by the much more naïve, natural and organic shapes located in modest cottage gardens—often introduced by gardeners who ended up used by grander houses and who preferred a small whimsy in their areas.

the east garden at hatfield house in hertfordshire
The East Backyard at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, with commanding cylindrical topiaries marching down a parterre avenue.


Both way, topiary adds everlasting composition to a backyard. In their the latest e-book, Winter season Gardens, Clare Foster and Andrew Montgomery eloquently show how planted framework holds the yard together more than the wintertime months, its bare bones uncovered and its toughness emphasised by a dusting of snow or glistening frost. It is this toughness and class that I strive for, utilizing a vary of trees and shapes to attain a harmonious team of “players” that have you through and all over a yard, primary the way and marking variations in its environment or tempo.

levens hall, the worlds oldest topiary garden   circa 17th century 90  pieces clipped from yew   taxus baccata and aurea and box cut into shapes   peacocks, figures or chess pieces
The topiary backyard garden at Levens Hall in Cumbria, created by Guillaume Beaumont (university student of Versailles visionary André Le Nôtre), is an case in point of the 17th­-century Dutch design and style, wherever exceptionally theatrical varieties increase from smaller yard spaces.


I adore that topiary is enjoying a renaissance today. We’re observing it made use of more in up to date backyard garden style, where by shapes like platforms and cubes pick up the type and layout of modern day homes and anchor a larger sized residence in its landscape. Equally, topiary can feel incredibly Elizabethan—an period I am consistently encouraged by—bringing scale and antiquity to a residence. Domes and balls can soften gateways and transition factors. And by clipping native trees, these kinds of as subject maple, we can reduce the degree of formality, incorporating an ingredient of surprise and naivety. Copper beech is a well-liked option in modern day styles, pleached or clipped in layers or spirals, but also fits additional ancient landscapes and provides supplemental shade to the yard in colder months as it retains its dried bronze leaves right until the new advancement pushes as a result of in spring. Yew and box can add pounds and, grouped carefully jointly, can aid give a perception of enclosure, secrecy, or suspense.

clipped yew columns   taxus baccata   and reflective pool in the silent garden at scampston hall walled garden, north yorkshire, uk
At North Yorkshire’s Scampston Hall, mod­ernist yew sculptures by Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf.


I go on to be motivated by gardens that celebrate the artwork of topiary, this kind of as Levens Corridor in Cumbria wherever a like of clipped trees is a should for site visitors! Its exuberance and sheer scale perfectly showcase topiary as a horticultural art kind. Even a fleeting stop by to this garden—or any of the a lot of great topiary displays—is a fantastic tonic, inviting you to immerse you in the trees and speculate at their elegance.

This post originally appeared in the March/April 2022 concern of VERANDA. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer illustrations by Tug Rice created by Dayle Wooden composed by Arne Maynard

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