Let’s Talk Topiary

Think topiary is only for (a) formal gardens, (b) landmark English estates, or (c) Disneyland? Think again! Topiary, the art or practice of clipping shrubs or trees into ornamental shapes, can transform your front door, deck, containers, beds, and borders from “that’s nice” to “that’s fabulous” without even so much as a hint of preciousness or pretension. Here are eight inspiring uses of topiary that flat out show the joy of using this fun, curvy-swervey garden element, along with a few plant suggestions. Consult your local garden center for the best choices for your particular region.

dutchdoortopiaryV2Mixing Media

Designer Molly Wood flanked this Dutch door with a pair of elegant three-tier poodle boxwood topiary. The more formal (and yet playful) configuration of this style of topiary is a nice contrast to the casual, farm-style siding and pendant light.

collage3Room for One

While topiary tends to be used in multiples, look at how much punch a single large specimen adds to this small doorway. Potted in an aged container, this topiary adds much-needed height without taking up too much floor space.

bloginformaltopiaryExclamation Point

Planted in large terra cotta pots, these two-tier boxwood poodles add a pop to the inner corners of this parterre garden. Consider using potted topiary in garden beds. Containers add scale and texture.

blogtopiarycountryIn a Mood

Context, as they say, is everything. If you’re going storybook like this little glammed-up shed (yes, it’s a shed) and surrounding cottage garden, a pair of whimsical spiral conifer topiaries complete the romantic picture.

blogtopiarywoodenboxesGrass + Topiary? Why not.

Try to imagine this vignette without the grass; it would be a lovely but typical formal front entry. Adding frothy grasses to these tightly clipped topiary and planting in painted wooden boxes adds a softer, more beachy effect. Easy!

blogtopiarygreenpotEveryday Underplantings

French-inspired pots, Federal-style lights, a patchwork of bluestone pavers, shrubs sheared into sharp cones. Nothing here “goes together” but wow, does it work. The element that warms it all up are the annuals tucked into the pots.

blogtopiarymassedModern Twist

Dropping a classic English-garden planter stuffed with six Dr. Seuss looking topiaries into a contemporary garden might not be an obvious choice, but it takes this space from textbook modern to something more personal and fun.

blogtopiarybaySimply Awesome

A pair of sweet bay shrubs trained and clipped into single ball standards is about as easy and relaxed as a topiary can get. Don’t worry that these are tender plants; bring them indoors come winter as bay is very happy in a bright window.

4 Plants That Are Ideal for Topiary Forms


Green Tower® Boxwood
Zones: 5 – 9


Green Columnar Juniper
Zones: 4 – 9


Manhattan Euonymus
Zones: 5 – 8

Photo Credits:

Lead Image: DK – Grow Plants in Pots © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Row One, Left:  Molly Wood Garden Design; Right: Cullen and Company

Row Two, Left: Mariani Landscape; Right: Original source unknown

Row Three, Left: Original source unknown; Right: Tone on Tone

Row Four, Left: Levitate; Right:  Home Bunch

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