Topiaries are plants grown or pruned in different shapes. One of the most common is the standard which looks like a round lollipop or ball on a stick. Sizes of topiaries range from tabletop to giants more than 10 feet tall. Some animal-shaped topiaries are pruned freehand to the desired shape. Others use a form that the plant grows up and through to the desired shape and then pruned to keep it neat looking.
Rosemary is used for small topiaries because the leaves are small, it's a fast grower and it takes well to pruning. Rosemary is shaped as an inverted cone to resemble a Christmas tree during the holidays. Small-leaved plants with dense growth make good table top topiaries. If the plant is to be indoors, choose a houseplant or a plant that prefers shade, otherwise the topiary will start looking spindly from lack of proper lighting.
Bouquets of fresh cut flowers can be arranged to look like a standard topiary. Gather the stems closely together and cut the stems so the flowers are all the same height. Wrap a rubber band around the bottom of the stems and the top of the stems right below the flowers. As the flowers open, they'll form a ball shape. Carnations, roses and peonies work well for this type of arrangement.
Flowers that grow on tall, straight stems are shaped as a standard topiaries. Roses make beautiful standards. The upper rose plant that flowers is grafted onto the trunk and root system of a rose that grows tall. Hibiscus naturally grows to 5 feet tall and is trainable as a topiary standard. Clip off new growth below the flower ball, along the stem and any new shoots popping up from the ground. The stem or trunk of the topiary may have to be staked since it's top-heavy.
Flowering vines and evergreen vines, like ivy, are both trained as topiaries. A wire form is placed and secured around the plant in the ground. Securing the form is important because if it gets loose and starts to blow away, it will take the vine with it. Weave the vines around the form. As the vine grows, tuck new growth back inside the form and around it.
Choose a plant with a full shape and small leaves. Trim into a ball, square, gum drop or triangle shape. You can also trim plants as spirals, but it requires some planning. Double standards and triple standards are round spheres of leaves on a straight trunk. The lower ball is larger than the upper balls. The balls are separated by 1 to 2 feet of bare trunk.