Topiary goes as far back as the Ancient Romans with its first known appearance in a Tuscany garden. Here in the UK at Leven Halls in Cumbria, its Grade 1 Listed garden dating back to the 1694 boasts the oldest and most famous topiary in the world.
Topiary came into being as part of the birth of formal landscaping during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which has historically led to the common misconception that you need a large garden to enjoy these shapely shrubs.
In fact topiary in large country gardens went out of fashion during the eighteenth century and it was the small cottage gardens that carried on the art of clipping hedges into clearly defined shapes.
Today we use topiary in small gardens to give form as well as structure in clearly defined spaces. It also provides colour all year round where there is little space for flower borders. There are even clever examples of parterres created for the front gardens of small terraced houses, while small box hedging helps to soften edges where a garden has given over most of its land to hard landscaping and raised beds.
The King and Queen of topiary is the box and yew tree and you can create dramatic effects with geometric shapes. Box is the most popular choice and grows from April to June and now you can buy ready-made frames to help you. Get ready with your scissors, secateurs and shears!