Ladew Topiary Garden in Monkton, Maryland, is a wonderful public garden with a lot to offer, but most notably, an astonishing collection of topiary. Topiary is the art of pruning shrubs and other plants into creative shapes. The principle is pretty simple: decide what shape you want, and then prune away any part of the shrub that isn’t growing into that shape. As long as you choose a shrub that can take frequent shearing, and you have the time to keep up with all that trimming, you can create almost anything you can imagine. Boxwood (Buxus spp., Zones 5–8) and yew (Taxus baccata, Zones 5–7) are classic choices. Less traditionally, you can also use vining plants or even succulents grown over a wire frame to create a topiary. (Learn how to make a succulent topiary here.)
Abstract shapes are very traditional for topiary. These shrubs remind me of abstract interpretations of chess pieces. To maintain thick, green growth right to the bottom of the topiary, the bottoms of the shape need to be wider than the top so that the top growth doesn’t shade out the bottom.
Or you can create whole scenes and pictures with topiary! Here a hunter on horseback and four hounds race over a perfect hedge.
Regular clipping is key to perfect-looking topiary. Heavy equipment makes it easier for the gardeners at Ladew to trim their enormous topiary structures. For home gardeners, keeping your topiary short enough to be easily trimmed makes life much easier.
Do leash laws apply to topiary dogs? Well, better safe than sorry!
As beautiful and iconic as the topiary at Ladew are, there is a lot more to the gardens, like these incredible blue waterlilies.
Have you ever experimented with topiary in your garden? Please send some pictures to the Garden Photo of the Day! We’d love to see them.
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