Outdoor Topiary Techniques

Topiaries add elegance and fun to any garden, whether a simple spiral or a whimsical shape or animal. Make a topiary either by clipping shrubs by hand, or by using metal forms and allowing the shrub to grow and fill it. They come in all sizes and prices to suit any gardener's budget.

Spiral Topiary

Creating a spiral looks great in an arborvitae, yew, boxwood shrub or any evergreen that has dense foliage. It is an elegant addition in your garden. First trim your shrub with a trimmer to smooth and create a cone shape. You can then tie string to the top and spiral it down evenly so you will have a grid to work with. Use pruning shears to cut along the string and into the center of the shrub. Once you have the spiral in place, you can remove the string and shape it up by rounding off the edges. You must touch up the spiral in early spring each year.

Metal Form with Shrubs

Another way to create a topiary is by allowing a plant to grow into a metal form. It can take years of pruning and growing to achieve the result you want. Plants that are quick-growing and full work best. Always start with young plants, as they are not woody yet. For four-legged animal forms you will need four plants, one for each leg. Check your local hardware store to find basic topiary metal frames, or search online to find more interesting shapes, such as dogs and dinosaurs. Websites such as finegardenproducts.com and englishcreekgardens.com have a wide assortment of metal forms you can purchase.

Metal Form with Sphagnum Moss

You can train ivy to grow over the frame, which would give you the quickest results. Soak sphagnum moss in a bucket until saturated. Squeeze out the excess water and mix with soil. Fill the form with the sphagnum moss and soil mixture, stuffing the form completely until the wire is no longer visible. Use fishing line wrapped around the form to keep the moss in place and use scissors to smooth out the form by clipping the excess moss. Make holes in the moss and push the ivy roots into the moss, covering the hole with more wet moss and soil. Do not cover the form completely with ivy since it will be growing. Use hair or fern pins to hold the vine runners on the form. Fertilize the topiary once a week as sphagnum moss has no nutrients, and water at least once a day (twice may be necessary).

Keywords: topiary, sphagnum moss, garden sculpture

About this Author

Based in Baltimore, Maryland, Karen has worked four years as a professional writer and editor, writing for the online source eHow with articles such as "How to Make Chocolate Chip Biscotti" and "How to Make Marshmallow Fondant," and editing scripts for A Work In Progress, an inspirational radio drama.