Topiary Information


Topiary is a style of ornamental gardening. People who participate in topiary are known as topiarists, and they produce sculptures out of a variety of plants (such as clipped shrubs, trees and sub-shrubs). They do so by weaving, training and trimming the plants. Topiary sculptures can range from being as large as a tree to as small as a coffee mug. The history of topiary can be traced back at least 2,000 years.


The name "topiary" comes from a Latin term for an ornamental gardener. The early Romans (who might have been inspired by the Greeks or the Jews) pruned hedges into ornamental designs and shapes. This was occurring around the beginning of the 1000s. Topiary then spread to other European nations, such as France and Great Britain. It became particularly popular during the Renaissance period, and then also during the Victorian era.


Both sub-shrubs and shrubs are used in topiary. They are evergreen and consist of small needles or leaves, and create dense, tightly packed foliage. Some plants that are commonly used in topiary include cultivars of arborvitae, box, holly, bay laurel, privet, myrtle and yew.

Asian Topiary

Topiary is also common in the Far East. Trees and shrubs have been shaped and clipped in Japan and China for centuries. One example of Asian topiary is cloud-pruning, which originates from Japan and is characterized by cloud-like styles of clipped shrub and tree growth. Another form of Asian topiary is the Japanese Karikomi, which aims to shape trees and shrubs into big, curved structures and shapes.


For individuals who lack sufficient space outdoors for topiary, indoor topiary is an option. For indoor topiary, it is essential to select a rapid-growing potted plant that has a small amount of sprigs. Some options to consider include geraniums, ivy and lavender. A wire skeleton, which is known as a tuteur, must be staked into the soil to offer support for the wanted shape.

Modern Topiary

Topiary is still very common in the modern day. Examples of contemporary topiary can be found at Disneyland amusement park in Anaheim, California. Since 1962, topiary sculptures of Disney characters have been on display at the park.

Typical Shapes

There are several popular and common topiary shapes. These shapes include obelisks, pyramids, cubes, cones, balls and tapering spirals. Apart from standard shapes, it is also popular to make topiary in the form of a person, animal or even manmade items.


Some famous examples of topiary displays worldwide include Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire, England, Villa Lante in Bagnaia, Italy, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the Hunnewell Arboretum in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and the Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, Maryland.

Keywords: topiary, ornamental gardening, landscape design

About this Author

Isabel Prontes is a freelance writer and traveler residing in Manhattan, NY. She has traveled to five continents and counting. Her work has appeared on a number of websites, such as Travels, and "Happy Living Magazine." Prontes has a professional background in public relations; she received a bachelor's degree in communication studies from Pace University.