Topiary tale techniques!

Sean Granger, General Manager of Granny Mouse Country House & Spa recently took time to read up on some awesome works of outdoor topiaries across Europe, which do really create a striking effect in a garden as well as create interest for those passing by.

Interestingly, the origins were in 44BC during the Roman era. Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus (who was known to be Julius Caesar’s side kick), is credited for introducing the very first topiary to Roman gardens, where he had elaborate figures of animals, and so much more at his Tuscan villa. Miniature landscapes (topos) were also created within Roman houses and villas for the first time, forming an art called topiarius.

In the 1500s, topiary was definitely found on properties of the wealthy folk and typical shapes were balls, cubs, cones and pyramids. Creating the sculptural forms were stone and lead which assisted with the creation of the shapes.

By the 17th Century, it became fashionable to create more complex designs in Holland and soon set roots in England. In 1690, French gardener M. Beaumont created the topiary garden, Levens Hall, and is now in the Guinness Book of Records as being the oldest topiary garden in the world.

18th Century saw a decline in topiary because of some satiric article on “Verdant Sculpture” published by Alexander Pope in The Guardian in 1713. Making it suddenly unfashionable, they were all but cleared from upper class English gardens which then went back to being more wild and natural looking. The smaller scale style of topiary did survive on in and around cottage gardens primarily in ball and cone shapes.

Fortunately, there were a few gardening writers and topiary enthusiasts who managed to bring it back into favour and fashion and thank goodness for that.

Further good news was the ingenious idea of creating portable pieces, taking the art form into the 20th century. Frames, now assisted in being a permanent trimming guide, can be stuffed with moss and planted wherever you want, and is a living growing sculpture and beautiful to look at.

There are some super impressive living sculpture forms throughout the world and here are some of the top five as quoted by garden destinations:

  1. Levens Hall, England – possibly the oldest with over 100 topiaries
  2. The Marqueyssac, France
  3. Drummond Castle Gardens, Scotland
  4. Green Animals Topiary Garden, Rhode Island
  5. Ladew Topiary Gardens, Maryland

So, pull out your shears, prepare your “green fingers” and start creating that front lawn masterpiece on your hedge to impress your neighbours or passersby and be the topiary envy of the block!

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