September 24, 2022

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British Backyard garden Designer Arne Maynard on Topiary Style and design

I nevertheless vividly recall noticing topiary for the to start with time. I was just 3 or 4 several years previous, driving the bus into the area sector town around in which we lived in Dorset to go purchasing with my mom. I constantly wanted to sit upstairs so I could see above the hawthorn hedge of a particular dwelling we passed, enthralled by the amazing wedding day-cake clipped yew in the entrance backyard garden. It was so exact, so correctly formed, and I was mesmerized.

A lattice of box, with each other with yew domes and box balls, presents construction to softer plantings in Maynard’s side garden.

Britt Willoughby Dyer

In almost all the gardens I have built around the entire world considering the fact that I started my exercise in 1986, I have employed topiary to some degree, no doubt influenced by those early recollections. Typically, topiary was thought of a pretty official ingredient, related with significant, grand gardens and set out in rigid styles to intensify axes and punctuate official spaces. Opulence in backyard structure, like the use of these clipped designs, was normally a symbol of position, signifying prosperity and power. On the other hand, my choice is for a much more informal, asymmetrical design, employing easy shapes—domes, balls, and layered cones—to carry an ingredient of exciting to a garden. This model is impressed by the additional naïve, natural designs discovered in modest cottage gardens—often introduced by gardeners who have been utilized by grander properties and who desired a minimal whimsy in their areas.

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

Hole Pictures/JERRY HARPUR

Either way, topiary adds long term structure to a yard. In their modern book, Winter season Gardens, Clare Foster and Andrew Montgomery eloquently show how planted framework retains the yard jointly over the wintertime months, its bare bones uncovered and its strength emphasised by a dusting of snow or glistening frost. It is this power and elegance that I try for, working with a vary of trees and styles to reach a harmonious group of “players” that have you by means of and about a backyard, main the way and marking changes in its ambiance 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 garden at Levens Corridor in Cumbria, built by Guillaume Beaumont (scholar of Versailles visionary André Le Nôtre), is an illustration of the 17th­-century Dutch design and style, where by exceptionally theatrical types rise from smaller back garden areas.

Gap Photographs/NICOLA STOCKENL

I really like that topiary is taking pleasure in a renaissance right now. We’re observing it made use of more in up to date backyard design, where styles like platforms and cubes select up the design and structure of modern day qualities and anchor a greater residence in its landscape. Equally, topiary can truly feel pretty Elizabethan—an period I am frequently encouraged by—bringing scale and antiquity to a house. Domes and balls can soften gateways and changeover factors. And by clipping indigenous trees, this sort of as industry maple, we can reduce the diploma of formality, including an ingredient of surprise and naivety. Copper beech is a preferred choice in present-day styles, pleached or clipped in layers or spirals, but also satisfies a lot more ancient landscapes and provides additional colour to the yard in colder months as it retains its dried bronze leaves until the new development pushes as a result of in spring. Yew and box can add weight and, grouped intently together, can enable give a feeling 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.

Gap Pics/ROB WHITWORTH AND JO WHITWORTH

I go on to be impressed by gardens that celebrate the art of topiary, such as Levens Corridor in Cumbria the place a enjoy of clipped trees is a will have to for site visitors! Its exuberance and sheer scale flawlessly showcase topiary as a horticultural art variety. Even a fleeting take a look at to this garden—or any of the several excellent topiary displays—is a amazing tonic, inviting you to immerse yourself in the trees and marvel at their attractiveness.


This report originally appeared in the March/April 2022 problem of VERANDA. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer illustrations by Tug Rice made by Dayle Wood created by Arne Maynard

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