Category Archives: topiary

Late season Box clipping

Today Alix and I attended a lovely new garden to us, in the Mid-Sussex countryside.  The owner has lived there for 22 years and more or less planted and maintained the garden all that time on her own.  It is fabulous because she has many unusual varieties of plants shrubs and trees.  Every other summer she opens her garden to the public in aid of charity and you can wander around the beautiful space early evening with a glass of wine in hand.

Not us, we were on a mission to get chopping

In some areas it may be too late in the year to give the topiary a second trim, as the new growth after clipping could be susceptible  to frost damage.  However we have looked at the forecast and reckon it will be fine.

Generally I forget to take ‘before’ photos until it is too late and yet again that happened  today – as always we just want to dive in.. so here we are at the end of the day…

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After clipping, the box should be well watered and given a good nitrogen feed to encourage more green growth.


And to cap it off today we saw the amazing caterpillar of the wackily named Elephant-hawk Moth:

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and I’ve never seen anything like it.  Hugely impressive with its fake eyes to  hopefully intimidate potential foes and they are surprisingly not un-common. Wonderful shape size and colouration. Rumour has it that the Elephant-Hawk moth ain’t too bad either with it’s big 70mm wing span in pretty pink and grey



Cloud Pruning!

This was a large Box shrub when we found it in the garden initially. It no longer looked right in the border as it was just a ‘blob’ in an area that has now been cultivated with vegetables. However it was quite old so we didn’t want to remove it. Having recently taken a course in the Japanese art of Cloud Pruning with Jake Hobson at Niwaki, I decided to try out my new skills on this poor old shrub. We are now 3 years down the line and it is ready for its annual ‘short back and sides’ Here are the photos:



This is not a high-maintenance job, as we only prune it once a year, but the results are to create a light and airy architectural focal plant out of an otherwise previously dull and homogenous green mound in the landscape. Well, it’s growing on me!

Further down this border I have planted several Phillyrea latifolia, which are an evergreen plant similar to those in Japan that are cloud pruned. This time I thought I could try and train them as they grew. I’ll give them a few more years for them to fulfil their potential. Meanwhile I will torture them a little bit more to see what they can do!

The worst thing about Topiary

I love the finished look of freshly clipped Box hedges and balls as it adds the perfect neat contrast to the shaggy fullness of a June garden. I even pride myself on getting the shapes just right, but picking up the little pieces afterwards is a bit of a nightmare.
There are 2 things we try to do to make the job a little easier: Firstly by draping an old tablecloth around the base of the plant and if there are other plants all around it, the cloth will gently lie on those plants and still catch the majority of the clippings. Secondly we try and remember to add mulch to the border – either mushroom compost, a soil conditioner or decorative bark chippings AFTER clipping, thus leaving a tidy finish.
Don’t forget to give the plants a good long drink and a feed at the end of the job.

Todays tasks for the team