Definition of Topiary


Topiary is a style of ornamental gardening. Topiary is characterized by weaving, trimming, training and shaping of plants into a wide array of shapes and styles. Some topiary plants are very large, while others are small. This popular form of gardening has been in existence for a minimum of two millenniums and has Roman origins.


The history of topiary begins with the early Romans, who may or may not have been inspired by the Greeks. Topiary started out as a practice of hedge pruning. The hedges were pruned into many different shapes and sizes. Toward the beginning of the 1000s, topiary became increasingly popular with monks. From then on, the art spread out to France, Great Britain and other parts of Europe. The art reached a peak in popularity during the Renaissance era. During Victorian times, topiary expanded with the development of knot gardens and hedge mazes.


Topiary involves producing sculptures out of clipping shrubs, sub-shrubs and trees. Topiary's sub-shrubs and shrubs are evergreen and consist of tiny needles or leaves. The plants also are characterized by densely packed leaves and either columnar or compact growth patterns.

Common Topiary Plants

Some plants are particularly commonly used to create topiary sculptures. These plants include thuja, privet, varieties of buxus, myrtle, holly, bay laurel, arborvitae and taxus.


There are various different shapes that are also particularly popular for topiary. These shapes include spirals, globes and pyramids. Animal sculptures are also very common with topiary, especially exotic creatures such as whales, giraffes and elephants. Smaller animal topiary sculptures often depict cats and dogs.


Topiary sculptures should be occasionally trimmed in order to maintain the desired appearance and overall shape. When the plants are initially planted, they require frequent watering. However, after that, fertilizing and watering demands decrease. Fertilizing topiary sculptures about once every two weeks or so is recommended. Liquid fertilizers are beneficial.

Keywords: topiary sculptures, topiary definition, topiary gardening

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.