Making a Topiary


A topiary is a living sculpture made from plants. They can be designed as indoor or outdoor displays. Choose to create an animal shape or a simple ball of greenery. Either way, with proper care a topiary can last many years. There are two different basic kinds of topiary. One is created by trimming shrubs into a shape and the other is made by training vines to grow through a pre-made form.

Vine Topiary

Step 1

Choose a plant. English ivy is often used as well as Boston ivy and vinca minor. These vines grow quickly and can be trained to wrap around a frame.

Step 2

Select a topiary frame. Hollow wire frames can be purchased or made from chicken wire. If you are making your own, consider wrapping the wire around a model to form the shape. Choose a sports ball, like a basketball or baseball, or use a stuffed animal. Press the wire tightly around the model to form the shape, then use wire cutters to make an opening for the object to be removed. Reattach the wire, leaving an opening for the moss.

Step 3

Choose a pot that is large enough to hold the topiary frame. Topiary sculptures can become heavy, so look for a sturdy container. Fill the pot with soil.

Step 4

Soak long-fibered sphagnum moss in water. Adding a drop of liquid soap to the water will help the moss absorb the water faster. Squeeze to remove excess moisture, and then stuff the moss into the wire frame. If the moss is falling out of the holes, use fishing line to make a web-like support to hold it inside. Add this form to your planter. Place a wooden skewer through the center to hold it firmly in place.

Step 5

Plant your ivy or chosen vine in the pot. Several small plants can be arranged around the form if it is a large structure. Start training the vines by affixing the tendrils to the wire form with topiary pins or small hairpins. As it grows, continue to train the vine around the structure.

Shrub Topiary

Step 1

Choose a shrub. Evergreen plants commonly used include box, arborvitae, privet and yew. A young shrub can be molded as it grows, but you can also create a topiary with a more mature plant.

Step 2

Decide on the shape you wish to create. Purchase a frame or create one from chicken wire to help guide your pruning shears. If you are making your own frame, use wire cutters to cut out the shape from chicken wire. Animal frames can be made by first molding the wire around a large stuffed animal or outdoor lawn ornament. Cut a seam to remove the object, and then place the mold around the shrub and re-attach with small pieces of wire and a pair of pliers.

Step 3

Trim the shrub as it grows. Cut no more than three inches at a time from any area. Areas that need more growth can benefit from small one-inch cuts. This will encourage growth. Continue to trim often during the plant's active growing season.

Things You'll Need

  • Plants
  • Chicken wire
  • Models, ball, stuffed animal (optional)
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Pot
  • Potting soil
  • Long-fiber sphagnum moss
  • Liquid soap
  • Water
  • Topiary pins


  • Gardening Know How:How to Make Your Own Topiary
  • Moss Acres: How to Make Animal Topiaries
  • French Gardening:The Ancient Art of Topiary
Keywords: topiary, vine topiary, homemade topiary forms

About this Author

Sylvie Branch brings her creativity to all the work that she does. A full-time writer since 2008 and a professional artist and educator since 1992, Branch's articles appear on eHow as well as several other sites and blogs. Apprenticed under a sculptor, Branch attended years of private fine art classes. She has also has won awards in both collage and sculpture.

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