I continue to vividly don’t forget noticing topiary for the very first time. I was just 3 or 4 years outdated, using the bus into the regional market place city close to exactly where we lived in Dorset to go purchasing with my mom. I always desired to sit upstairs so I could see above the hawthorn hedge of a distinct dwelling we passed, enthralled by the amazing marriage ceremony-cake clipped yew in the entrance backyard garden. It was so specific, so completely formed, and I was mesmerized.

arne maynard side garden topiary garden wales
A lattice of box, alongside one another with yew domes and box balls, provides structure to softer plantings in Maynard’s side yard.

Britt Willoughby Dyer

In just about all the gardens I’ve developed close to the world considering that I commenced my observe in 1986, I have used topiary to some diploma, no question influenced by those early reminiscences. Usually, topiary was regarded a quite official element, affiliated with huge, grand gardens and established out in rigid designs to intensify axes and punctuate official spaces. Opulence in garden structure, such as the use of these clipped styles, was usually a symbol of standing, signifying prosperity and electricity. However, my desire is for a extra casual, asymmetrical design, applying straightforward shapes—domes, balls, and layered cones—to provide an aspect of pleasurable to a garden. This design and style is influenced by the extra naïve, organic and natural designs located in modest cottage gardens—often introduced by gardeners who ended up utilized by grander properties and who preferred a little whimsy in their areas.

the east garden at hatfield house in hertfordshire
The East Back garden at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, with commanding cylindrical topiaries marching down a parterre avenue.

Gap Photographs/JERRY HARPUR

Both way, topiary adds lasting composition to a backyard garden. In their current e book, Winter Gardens, Clare Foster and Andrew Montgomery eloquently clearly show how planted construction holds the backyard garden jointly in excess of the winter months, its bare bones exposed and its strength emphasised by a dusting of snow or glistening frost. It is this energy and elegance that I attempt for, working with a range of trees and styles to achieve a harmonious group of “players” that carry you by means of and all-around a yard, major the way and marking modifications in its environment or tempo.

levens hall, the worlds oldest topiary garden   circa 17th century 90  pieces clipped from yew   taxus baccata and aurea and box cut into shapes   peacocks, figures or chess pieces
The topiary yard at Levens Hall in Cumbria, designed by Guillaume Beaumont (college student of Versailles visionary André Le Nôtre), is an case in point of the 17th­-century Dutch design, where by exceptionally theatrical forms rise from smaller sized back garden spaces.


I appreciate that topiary is having fun with a renaissance nowadays. We’re viewing it used additional in present-day back garden structure, in which designs like platforms and cubes choose up the fashion and design of modern-day qualities and anchor a much larger house in its landscape. Similarly, topiary can truly feel very Elizabethan—an period I am continually inspired by—bringing scale and antiquity to a assets. Domes and balls can soften gateways and changeover points. And by clipping indigenous trees, these kinds of as subject maple, we can reduce the diploma of formality, adding an aspect of shock and naivety. Copper beech is a well-liked decision in contemporary designs, pleached or clipped in levels or spirals, but also suits far more ancient landscapes and adds further coloration to the backyard garden in colder months as it retains its dried bronze leaves right until the new advancement pushes via in spring. Yew and box can incorporate bodyweight and, grouped intently alongside one another, can assist give a perception of enclosure, secrecy, or suspense.

clipped yew columns   taxus baccata   and reflective pool in the silent garden at scampston hall walled garden, north yorkshire, uk
At North Yorkshire’s Scampston Corridor, mod­ernist yew sculptures by Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf.


I continue to be inspired by gardens that celebrate the art of topiary, these kinds of as Levens Corridor in Cumbria where by a appreciate of clipped trees is a will have to for readers! Its exuberance and sheer scale correctly showcase topiary as a horticultural art form. Even a fleeting go to to this garden—or any of the lots of excellent topiary displays—is a fantastic tonic, inviting you to immerse by yourself in the trees and wonder at their beauty.

This short article at first appeared in the March/April 2022 problem of VERANDA. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer illustrations by Tug Rice manufactured by Dayle Wood prepared by Arne Maynard

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