How to Cut Topiaries

Overview

The art of shaping shrubbery through clipping can be traced back to ancient Egypt. The walls of their tombs show that ancient Egyptians clipped container shrubs into decorative square shapes. This practice migrated to ancient Rome and then throughout Europe through the Renaissance. Today, many home gardeners may shape dense growing shrubs, such as boxwood, into complex shapes with the use of sculpted topiary forms, which resemble cages. These cages come apart in the middle so that you can easily slip them over a shrub.

Step 1

Pull the topiary frame apart along the seam in the center.

Step 2

Place each half of the cage on either side of the bush that you wish to shape. Push the cage back together to reassemble it.

Step 3

Press the cage downward so that the stakes located along the bottom are pushed into the ground. This will anchor the cage into the ground.

Step 4

Pull the branches of the shrub outward in between the bars of the cage so that the cage is hidden by the branches of the bush.

Step 5

Mix a solution that contains one part bleach and nine parts water. Saturate a clean cloth with the bleach solution and swipe the blades of your shears with this cloth to sterilize them. Clean the shears in between shaping sessions and after you finish shaping each bush.

Step 6

Remove up to 3 inches from the ends of each limb of your shrub with long-handled shears. Do not cut the leaves on each limb. Instead, cut the limb itself in between leaves.

Step 7

Plan trimming sessions every three months. Continue to remove sections of each shrub's limb 3 inches at a time until the limbs just touch the wire frame.

Step 8

Pinch the ends of the limbs once they reach the desired length to encourage thicker branching and to hide the frame. Continue to trim the shrub every three months to maintain the shape.

Things You'll Need

  • Topiary shears
  • Long-handled shears
  • Topiary form
  • Bleach
  • Clean cloth

References

  • Topiary Arts: Cutting and Shaping
  • Cornel University: Living Sculpture
  • Topiary in the United Kingdom: The History of Topiary

Who Can Help

  • University of Kentucky Extension: Pruning Landscaping Shrubs
Keywords: clipping shrubs, shaping bushes, making topiary

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."