Creating Unique Gardens with Topiary Landscape Design

Careful pruning, shaping, and training creates magnificent live sculptures from ordinary evergreen shrubs. Topiary adds a sophisticated flair to your outdoor space and can complement most any landscape design, from simple and casual English gardens to formal Japanese style designs.

The History of Topiary

topiary landscape design

This delicate natural art has been practiced for centuries. The first topiary were said to have been in extravagant Roman gardens more than 2000 years ago.

These sculptures were hand-pruned to represent a variety of forms. Around the same time, a similar art was introduced in eastern civilizations, but these styles of topiary were much more natural. Sixteenth century Europe showcased an array of unique topiary designs in every form imaginable.

These plants were typically part of formal gardens and were associated with the affluent members of society for about a century. A renewed interest was seen in the late 1800’s and, today, topiary is integrated into several landscape design styles in a variety of ways, including formal forms as well as eastern techniques like bonsai gardening.

The Best Plants for Topiary Garden Styles

topiary landscape design


A topiary landscape design is generally made up of a selection of evergreen shrubs. The best plants are those that grow vertically with dense, small leaves or needles.

The following list of plants are commonly used for topiary and display the necessary characteristics.


Consider using the following:

  • Boxwood
  • Holly trees
  • Bay laurel
  • The yew tree
  • Privet is an excellent choice for fast growth.


Hardy plants that are easy to prune and can withstand severe trimming are the best choice for topiary.

Common Topiary Forms

topiary landscape design

Since its origin, topiary has been an individualistic style of garden design because there are so many different possibilities for form and shape.

Geometric figures and patterns are quite common, including spheres, cones, and cubes, but animals and other objects are also popular. The art of topiary can transform a plant into almost any shape or form you can imagine.


Creating Topiary

Modern methods of creating topiary don’t rely on the accuracy of the gardener as much as traditional topiary. Wire frames are available in a variety of styles and help direct the plant’s growth while serving as a guide during pruning. An easy way to produce a quick topiary with very little effort is to plant ivy over one of these cages and watch it flourish into the shape of the frame.

topiary landscape design

Topiary is found in all sorts of modern landscape designs, including residential lawns as well as commercial outdoor spaces.

Shrubs are often sculpted into holiday symbols throughout the year and are frequently a part of parks and zoos.

Geometric designs that accent the entryway, intriguing animal forms that invite conversation, and artistic styles as diverse as nature itself are what make topiary landscape design a timeless classic for outdoor living.

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