Living sculptures, called topiary, are easily grown using common garden plants, herbs and shrubs. Some types of topiary are trained to specific shapes by pruning, pinching and tying their branches. Other types are trained to shape by securing them to a pre-fabricated form as they grow. Their growing tips are then pinched out and the plants branch out, filling out the form. You can use plants traditionally used for outdoor topiary for indoor topiary, as long as you care for them outdoors during the growing season.
A tender, woody perennial shrub, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is easily trained into a topiary, starting either from seed or from 3- to 4-inch rooted cuttings. Provide a stake to support its main trunk, which will eventually become woody and show off the interesting texture of its flaky bark. When the growing tips are pinched out, rosemary branches out, making it ideal for filling in the top portion of the topiary. Its pleasing, slightly pine-like scent is also excellent as a seasoning.
Most commonly known as a vine that quickly covers masonry walls, English ivy (Hedera helix) is also available as small, tender varieties suitable for growing indoors and ideal for creating topiary. Dozens of varieties are available, including all shades of green, from light to dark, variegated or with ruffled leaves. Ivy requires a stake to support its vines as they climb up before being trained to grow around a wire form. Grow ivy topiary in bright, indirect light and water when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch.
An evergreen normally grown as a shrub outdoors, you can train Japanese boxwood (Buxus microphylla japonica) into a larger topiary to use indoors, such as on a mantle. With its leaves just one-quarter inch in length, the Japanese boxwood variety is preferred for a mantle topiary over the American boxwood, which has much larger leaves. Although initially it requires a stake to help its main stem support the weight of its top, eventually the boxwood topiary supports itself without an added stake.