Topiary is the art of clipping trees or scrubs into architectural shapes. This form of garden is not a new fad but rather an activity that never goes out of fashion. Surprisingly, gardeners have been engaging in topiary since the Roman times when the first manuscripts written by Pliny the Younger that allude to the practice appeared. These writings describe box hedges cut into shapes and elaborate animal topiaries.
Moving on to the 17th century, the practice of topiary reached its heyday in Europe. This was seen in one of its most ornate forms at Louis XIV’s Garden of Versailles, where miles of clipped hedges and elaborate box patterns made it one of the most high-maintenance gardens in the world.
Britain’s most topiarised plants are box, Buxus semper-virens, and yew or Taxus baccata. Most of the gardeners do not give much thought beyond the two plants when it comes to topiary. While these evergreen stalwarts are deciduous and evergreen, other alternatives could offer much more. These alternatives carry the characteristics of a traditional topiary plant – tiny evergreen leaves and a bushy appearance that can be clipped into shape to provide an all-year-round structure.
Here are the seven small garden trees you should consider:
- Crataegus coccinea – Scarlet Hawthorn
The Crataegus coccinea, known as the Scarlet Hawthorn, graces the landscape with its resplendent scarlet-hued berries. This tree is modest to medium in stature, adorned with many dark green, deeply serrated leaves. As the seasons change, so does its countenance; in spring, it flaunts delicate clusters of alabaster flowers, which then metamorphose into striking scarlet berries. These berries, often enduring through winter, become the tree’s pièce de resistance, transforming it into a vision of crimson and green.
Why Crataegus coccinea Is Ideal for Topiary
Scarlet Hawthorn’s dense and compact growth, visually arresting foliage, and vibrant berries render them perfect cloud trees. Pruning and sculpting can accentuate their natural allure, crafting designs that showcase their colour palette throughout the year. The scarlet berries serve as captivating focal points, augmenting the overall aesthetics of the topiary.
- Crataegus Laevigata’ Crimson Cloud’ – Hawthorn
The Crataegus laevigata ‘Crimson Cloud,’ a variant of the Hawthorn, traces its origins to Europe and stretches its influence to parts of North Africa and Western Asia. It is renowned for its blossoms and berries, which charm any garden. This Hawthorn variant boasts lobed leaves and clusters of vibrant red berries that endure through the autumn and winter. During the vernal equinox, it adorns itself with exquisite pinkish-white blossoms, adding to its allure.
Why Crataegus Laevigata Is Ideal for Topiary
Its compact and homogeneous growth pattern and enchanting blossoms and berries render it a stellar contender for topiary. Skilful pruning allows one to accentuate its intrinsic allure and form, transforming it into striking living sculptures. The blossoms and berries of the tree add intricate embellishments to the topiary design, engendering an overall visually gratifying effect.
- Juniperus Squamata’ Meyeri’ – Flaky Juniper
The Juniperus squamata ‘Meyeri,’ commonly called the Flaky Juniper, is a miniature evergreen shrub native to the Himalayan region. The distinctive texture and growth pattern of this tree make it a compelling choice for topiary. The Flaky Juniper boasts dense, scale-like foliage that transitions in colour from argent-blue to verdant, conferring upon it a distinctive texture. Its prostrate growth habit and creeping branches enhance its visual appeal.
Why Juniperus Squamata Is Ideal for Topiary
Its inherent growth pattern, adorned with intricate foliage and a unique texture, lends itself splendidly to topiary art. This shrub can be coaxed into various forms through judicious pruning and sculpting, lending visual intrigue to your garden. Its foliage permits meticulous detailing, making it an apt choice for intricate topiary designs.
- Juniperus Virginiana’ Hetzii’ – Red Cedar ‘Hetzii’
Juniperus virginiana ‘Hetzii,’ or Red Cedar ‘Hetzii,’ is a languorous evergreen tree indigenous to North America. Its vibrant emerald foliage and naturally conical silhouette make it an enticing option for topiary. The Red Cedar ‘Hetzii’ showcases luxuriant, feathery foliage in a vivid green hue. Its growth pattern is innately conical, endowing it with an elegant profile in any garden. The foliage may acquire a hint of bronze during winter, further enriching its visual appeal.
Why Juniperus virginiana ‘Hetzii’ Is Ideal for Topiary
The Red Cedar ‘Hetzii’ is intrinsically well-suited for topiary owing to its conical growth pattern and compact foliage. With precise pruning, this tree can be coerced into diverse forms, permitting the creation of alluring topiary designs. Its vivid green hue is a splendid canvas for crafting aesthetically pleasing living sculptures.
- Juniperus x Pfitzeriana ‘Aurea’ – Golden Juniper
Juniperus x Pfitzeriana ‘Aurea,’ or Golden Juniper, is a hybrid evergreen shrub, a descendant of Juniperus chinensis and Juniperus sabina. Its glorious golden foliage infuses warmth and vivacity into any garden. The Golden Juniper flaunts soft, needle-like foliage adorned in a stunning golden-yellow hue, imparting a radiant and cheery visage. Its prostrate growth habit renders it a versatile choice for various garden settings.
Why Juniperus x Pfitzeriana Is Ideal for Topiary
The vibrant and unique golden foliage of the Golden Juniper renders it an exemplary candidate for topiary. Careful pruning and sculpting facilitate the creation of intricate designs, infusing a burst of colour and artistic flair into your garden. Its distinctive hue adds depth and visual charm to any topiary sculpture.
- Mespilus Germanica – Medlar
Mespilus germanica, or Medlar, is a small deciduous tree that has been cultivated since time immemorial. Originating from Southwest Asia and Southeastern Europe, the Medlar yields peculiar fruits reminiscent of diminutive apples. The Medlar tree features expansive, uncomplicated leaves and delicate white blossoms that precede the atypical fruit. The fruit, resembling a miniature russet apple, is typically gathered post-frost, and when ripe, it proffers a sweet and aromatic savour.
Why Medlar Is Ideal for Topiary
The Medlar’s compact growth and beguiling fruit make it an intriguing choice for topiary. Sculpting this tree allows one to accentuate its unusual fruit and craft an eye-catching topiary piece that introduces an element of curiosity to your garden. Its unique fruiting attribute infuses an aura of surprise and wonder into any topiary design.
- Pyrus Salicifolia ‘Pendula’ – Weeping Silver Leaved Pear
Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula,’ or Weeping Silver Leaved Pear, is an elegant deciduous tree indigenous to Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. Its graceful weeping habit and argent-hued leaves make it a stunning addition to any garden. The Weeping Silver Leaved Pear boasts slender, silvery-grey leaves and delicate ivory blossoms during the vernal months. Its graceful, weeping branches create a picturesque tableau.
Why Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ Is Ideal for Topiary
The Weeping Silver Leaved Pear’s pendulous habit and distinct foliage make it an excellent candidate for topiary. Sculpting this tree allows one to emphasise its graceful form, creating a living sculpture that emanates elegance and beauty in your garden. Its unique growth pattern introduces a sense of movement and fluidity into the topiary design.
What to Consider When Looking for a Small Garden Tree for Topiary
When it comes to topiary, the first significant step is to carefully handpick the ideal small garden tree. This choice is the cornerstone of your living sculptural artistry; thus, meticulous reflection is paramount.
Here are several vital facets to contemplate when seeking an impeccable small garden tree for your topiary:
- Growth Patterning and Magnitude
Comprehending the growth patterning and prospective magnitude of the tree is fundamental. Each tree boasts a distinct growth characteristic, such as expansively spreading, graciously upright, or elegantly pendulous.
Take cognisance of the available space in your garden and choose a tree whose growth pattern harmonises seamlessly within that spatial realm. Opt for a magnitude that resonates with the scale you envisage for your topiary design.
- Leafage Attributes
Scrutinise the leafage of the tree intently. Topiary heavily leans on the foliage for crafting intricate contours and designs. Seek out densely populated foliage with fascinating textures and vibrant hues. Leafage that is aesthetically pleasing and amenable to precise pruning will render your topiary more captivating and easier to mould.
- Pruning Malleability
Assess the tree’s malleability to prune and shape. Certain trees respond favourably to pruning, readily conforming to the desired forms, while others may resist and require prolonged coaxing. Select a tree that can endure regular pruning without diminishing its vigour or aesthetics.
- Disease Resilience
Prioritise trees that exhibit a robust resistance to prevalent diseases and pests. Strong trees are indispensable for fruitful topiary endeavours. Trees with resistance to diseases demand less maintenance and ensure the endurance of your sculptural creation.
- Upkeep Requisites
Evaluate the upkeep requisites of the tree. Consider factors such as watering frequency, soil preferences, and sunlight predilections. Select a tree that aligns with your disposition and ability to bestow the necessary care and maintenance.
- Aesthetic Allure
Factor in the overarching aesthetic allure of the tree. The tree’s inherent beauty should resonate with your envisioned artistic perspective even before topiary sculpting. Select a tree with pleasing proportions, a well-harmonised structure, and attributes that spark creative inspiration.
- Seasonal Transformations
Consider how the tree’s visage metamorphoses with the changing seasons. Some trees manifest captivating alterations in colour, texture, or foliage throughout the different phases of the year. These fluctuations can infuse dynamism and visual allure into your topiary design across the annual cycle.
- Suitability for Your Design
Contemplate the suitability of the tree for your envisioned design. Certain trees might be more apt for specific shapes and styles. Choose a tree that resonates with the artistic creations you have in mind, ensuring that your artistic visions can be translated effectively into living sculptural forms.
Trees Perfect for Topiary – Conclusion
Upon venturing into the sphere of topiary, you must contemplate the growth intricacies, peculiarities of foliage, and ease of maintenance. These elements coalesce to guide the selection of the optimal tree for crafting a topiary spectacle.
The tree specimens we have scrutinised possess attributes that render them excellent candidates for topiary endeavours. Their inherently compact stature, distinctive foliage, vibrant produce, and aesthetically pleasing growth formations synergistically conspire to fabricate enchanting organic sculptures.
Topiary transforms trees into splendid works of art, enhancing the overall aesthetic of your garden and bestowing a captivating visual resonance.
Visit our stock page for a full list of our available trees.