British Back garden Designer Arne Maynard on Topiary Structure

I still vividly bear in mind noticing topiary for the very first time. I was just 3 or 4 a long time previous, driving the bus into the area industry town close to exactly where we lived in Dorset to go browsing with my mom. I usually wanted to sit upstairs so I could see in excess of the hawthorn hedge of a certain property we handed, enthralled by the unbelievable wedding day-cake clipped yew in the entrance backyard garden. It was so specific, so perfectly formed, and I was mesmerized.

A lattice of box, alongside one another with yew domes and box balls, offers construction to softer plantings in Maynard’s facet back garden.

Britt Willoughby Dyer

In pretty much all the gardens I have made about the world considering that I started my apply in 1986, I have utilised topiary to some degree, no doubt influenced by people early reminiscences. Usually, topiary was regarded a very official factor, connected with substantial, grand gardens and established out in rigid styles to accentuate axes and punctuate official areas. Opulence in garden style, such as the use of these clipped styles, was generally a symbol of status, signifying wealth and ability. Even so, my preference is for a more informal, asymmetrical style, applying simple shapes—domes, balls, and layered cones—to convey an element of pleasurable to a backyard. This style is motivated by the a lot more naïve, organic styles located in modest cottage gardens—often launched by gardeners who were employed by grander properties and who wished a little whimsy in their spaces.

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


Both way, topiary provides long-lasting framework to a garden. In their modern reserve, Wintertime Gardens, Clare Foster and Andrew Montgomery eloquently clearly show how planted construction holds the backyard jointly about the winter season months, its bare bones uncovered and its toughness emphasized by a dusting of snow or glistening frost. It is this toughness and magnificence that I try for, using a array of trees and shapes to accomplish a harmonious team of “players” that carry you by and about a back garden, main the way and marking adjustments in its atmosphere 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 Corridor in Cumbria, created by Guillaume Beaumont (pupil of Versailles visionary André Le Nôtre), is an instance of the 17th­-century Dutch fashion, in which extremely theatrical types rise from smaller backyard garden spaces.


I enjoy that topiary is making the most of a renaissance these days. We’re observing it applied extra in modern backyard style and design, the place styles like platforms and cubes decide up the fashion and design of modern day houses and anchor a larger house in its landscape. Similarly, topiary can experience really Elizabethan—an era I am continually impressed by—bringing scale and antiquity to a residence. Domes and balls can soften gateways and transition points. And by clipping native trees, these kinds of as subject maple, we can lessen the diploma of formality, adding an factor of shock and naivety. Copper beech is a well-known decision in contemporary styles, pleached or clipped in layers or spirals, but also satisfies a lot more ancient landscapes and adds added shade to the backyard in colder months as it retains its dried bronze leaves until finally the new expansion pushes by means of in spring. Yew and box can include pounds and, grouped carefully alongside one another, can support give a sense 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 Corridor, mod­ernist yew sculptures by Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf.


I go on to be influenced by gardens that celebrate the art of topiary, these kinds of as Levens Corridor in Cumbria wherever a adore of clipped trees is a have to for website visitors! Its exuberance and sheer scale flawlessly showcase topiary as a horticultural art form. Even a fleeting check out to this garden—or any of the quite a few good topiary displays—is a great tonic, inviting you to immerse you in the trees and marvel at their attractiveness.

This article at first appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of VERANDA. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer illustrations by Tug Rice generated by Dayle Wood composed by Arne Maynard

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