THE MAKING OF TOPIARY
Let your imagination run free. We can help you achieve something spectacular.
THE MAKING OF ARTIFICIAL TOPIARY
Starting with a steel frame designed specifically for artificial boxwood covering. We can clad over the frame with a UV protected Boxwood style foliage matting. Each small piece is shaped to fit every bend and dip in the frame sculpture. As many as 10,000 cable ties for a 3 meter tall Elephant are used to stitch the covering over the frame neatly like an Italian tailored suit. We pride ourselves that we make the neatest most detailed and strongest artificial topiary possible. Using steel frames for strength and longevity. Others use Polystyrene blocks to carve the shapes and pin fake plant material onto it. Steel frames are much better and stronger. We work the corners and edges with a similar cable tie technique. Unlike Polystyrene. This makes the edges crisp to look at and very strong. Enabling a few bumps without damaging anything. The Topiary Potato Man was about 5 meters tall and so we used a scaffold tower to get to the high points and made the arms detachable. A piece this size can take several Months to make. We also use artificial flowers on some items, like florists use dried flowers or flower heads. This enables us to get a contrast in colours and textures when needed. e.g. A Mane for a Lion in grasses or white flowers for wings and body of a Swan etc. Nothing is impossible and as an example we are just starting on a full size Porsche 911 GT3 RS sports car in artificial topiary.
THE MAKING OF CLASSIC TOPIARY
Classic topiary is made using trees and shrubs. Generally Yew and Boxwood in this country. Other plants can be used like Ilex Crenata, Lonicera, Ligustrum, and Cotoneaster, but Box gives the best long term finish. It grows at about 10-15 cm per year which means you only need to clip it once per year. The best time to clip is mid June. It has done most of it’s growing by then and will look sharp and well groomed for the rest of the year.
Yew is better for larger items as it grows about 20-25 cm per year. Like Box it can be cut back hard and will not die. A Yew tree trunk only will shoot new shoots if left alone. Yew can be cut at any time of year but late in the year is good. Avoid frosty weather
Don’t be put off because you only have other types of plant e.g. Privet. The pictures of Privet hedge topiary shown here. Show just how versatile it can be. The down falls with Privet are that it is semi deciduous and tends to loose lots of leaves in winter. It also has a habit of only growing at the top of the plant. This can leave the lower part of your topiary looking like bare twigs
The Boxwood Urns in the Fern bed pictured, were started using a basic topiary frame. Once the plant had filled the frame. I removed it. They are clipped by eye and hand each year. Always starting with the sides all around before clipping the top and shaping the rims.
The Pom-Pom tower in the middle of the bed was started as a single ball with a bamboo cane in the centre to tie one leader to. Letting the central leader grow for a few junctions over the ball before starting on the second ball. Stripping off any shoots that are to close to the bottom ball.
Spirals are created by firstly clipping an egg shape or cone at the height you require the spiral to finish. The more manicured and dense the egg or cone is the better.
Then using a strand of wool is best. Tie the wool to the low twig of your plant. Keep the first revolution low on the plant lightly lay the wool in a spiral up to the tip. Not making the first revolution low will waste a lot of your plant and you will get a chunky bit at the start of your spiral. Wool is good because it seems to grip the foliage better than a piece of string. Stand back and look. Adjust the wool to make a uniform line up the plant. Then lightly trim into the plant along the string line. Do not cut under the string.
You will get to a point with clipping that if you go further you will loose the bulk of the foliage in places. This is the time to stop for a year. Next year you will see just what needs trimming. Maybe cutting out a few twigs and foliage to get a deeper cut and allowing the gaps in foliage to fill from the sides. Moving a twig with your finger before you cut it. Will allow you to judge if it is better without the twig or with it.
The Ice cream spiral pictured was made with 4 strings going up the dense Yew tree and 4 lines of cutting.
Basic Geometric shapes like cones. Can be shaped using canes as guides tied together at the top of the plant. Then clip to the canes.
You will find that once you have some shape in your plant. It will be easier to shape each year.
When clipping a ball shape. It is worth remembering that it grows sideways twice as much as it grows upwards. Always start by clipping off the sides like you are creating a cylinder. However wide the cylinder is. Transfer this to the height from the ground. Then round the top over to make the top of the ball. Then lightly trim the bottom to make it look like it is sitting on the ground. If you ignore this routine. You ball may turn out like a flattened or squashed ball.
When creating formal hedges. It is wise to use a string line. At times we use a laser level to set the string on the upright rods/canes. Level always looks right. Even if the ground is sloping. If you use string like (bailer) twine. it often is forgiving if you catch it with the hedge cutter. Only partially cutting the treads of the twine.
The Puppy and Ball pictured was cut free hand. The Yew ball was already there. The Yew tree behind was an UN-shaped mess. Inspiration came from the ball. I sat eating my lunch in the customers garden looking at the tree. The vision just came to me. I could see that I could shape the tree to a sitting Dog. This suited the existing ball very well. This piece evolves a little each year and now looks like a terrier rather than puppy.
The Crocodiles were made using frames. Planting 8-10 bare root boxwood plants within the feet and body. Cutting back to the frame until a dense plant is achieved. Quick and easy to make.
The Unicorns are Topiary frames with 3 bare root Yews planted in the legs and the tail.
It was easier to go from the ground up the tail than try to train the tail to grow downwards. Clipping to the frame and tying leading shoots to the bottom of each part of the frame. as shoots try to grow upwards to fill above the trained branch.
Making of Filled frame topiary
These type of topiaries can be made with a multitude of carpet bedding and Alpine type plants covering the item to make different colours and textures.
Starting with a Topiary frame that we make specificity for this kind of topiary.
On large items the weight of growing medium water and plants can be huge. Keeping them moist all over is very important as unlike growing in a pot. The soil or growing medium can easily drain and evaporate. To much water will give you a soggy mess at the base of your topiary.
We install irrigation pipes and droppers on large items to help stabilize moisture.
- Making a Peacock topiary
- Line the frame with pre soaked moss. This can be ordinary raked lawn moss but in this item, Commercial Sphagnum moss was used. Anything will grow in moss and it replaces compost in some areas. Force the moss into any small spaces within the frame e.g. face and legs. Then line the underside of the body to half way up.
- Using a semi permeable membrane that lets water through. generously line the moss with it. Add and compact compost. At this stage we also added a couple of Fuchsia plugs at the tail end.
- Wrap the compost filled body with the membrane. Cut off excess membrane.
- Place more moss over the membrane to cover.
- Poke moss into and around any visible frame. It will look shaggy and not very neat at this point.
- With light fishing line. 6 lbs is good and will be invisible. Bind all over the moss lots of times and reasonably close together. You will find that the moss compresses back to the shape of the item very well. The line when pulled tight. Tends to lock itself within the moss.
- With a knife keeping in line with the fishing lines. Poke holes one at a time and plant either a plug or plant cutting into each hole. In this item we have used pieces of Golden Pearlwort. We have also used Leptinella Platts Black on others which I would highly recommend. It has a bronze colour and a feather like foliage.
- Train and tie your Fuchsia to the frame tail. Keep it moist.
The Making Of The Elephant Family
This was the challenge.
We had 10 weeks to create a family of living topiary Elephants for a one off Elephant charity Summer event.
The choices of living plants was limited as growing the plants on the elephants was not a viable option. It also took 6 weeks or more to make the purpose built Topiary frames.
We we made the frames of Tusker, Female and baby and had them and all materials needed, taken to the event site in Petersham UK.
my team and I then lined the inside of the legs with grass turfs and capillary matting as a backing to the grass turfs. At this point we also added an irrigation pipework system over them.
Because the elephants were so bulky and the elephants were not expected to last longer than the Summer. We relied on Hydroponic irrigation to feed and keep the Elephants Moist.
We had a packaging machine that blew up little sachets of air. This made filling the bulk easier. Lining the frames and back filling a piece at a time until they were complete.
They looked absolutely stunning all summer and were seen by many. They feature in books, commercial products, adverts and even on T shirts etc. across the world.
When we dismantled them. They had not been clipped all Summer and looked like woolly Mammoths. I wish I had kept that picture.
Making of Willow Sculptures
We start with a steel frame that is specificity made to take different styles of weaving.
The Gardener pictured. Needed to have a contrast in weave to enable boots and jacket to stand out from trousers and hands etc. This gives a very detailed finish.
We use fresh green willow that is grown locally as whips and harvested as we need it. It is very flexible.
The willow is woven over the frames and locked off at the end to avoid it springing undone. We weave as much willow onto the frames as is possible to give a dense and tough covering. Soaking the willow with wood preserve and varnish makes them last for many years.
The Willow Letters pictured were made as a company logo. They were made using steel frames in the customers choice of font. We then covered them with galvanised fencing wire. This enables us to create a random woven effect over the entire item. One of the benefits of willow or wicker on steel frames is that Solid fixing points can be welded to the frame making them very strong.
Other weaving techniques include the War Horse under construction, pictured. With the willow woven all in the same direction.