British Garden Designer Arne Maynard on Topiary Design

Greg Stevens

I nonetheless vividly don’t forget noticing topiary for the very first time. I was just 3 or 4 several years aged, driving the bus into the neighborhood market town close to the place we lived in Dorset to go browsing with my mother. I always desired to sit upstairs so I could see around the hawthorn hedge of a specific dwelling we passed, enthralled by the outstanding wedding day-cake clipped yew in the front back garden. It was so exact, so properly formed, and I was mesmerized.

arne maynard side garden topiary garden wales
A lattice of box, jointly with yew domes and box balls, offers framework to softer plantings in Maynard’s facet back garden.

Britt Willoughby Dyer

In nearly all the gardens I’ve intended all around the entire world due to the fact I started my observe in 1986, I have applied topiary to some diploma, no question affected by all those early memories. Ordinarily, topiary was thought of a very formal component, associated with significant, grand gardens and set out in rigid patterns to intensify axes and punctuate official areas. Opulence in yard layout, including the use of these clipped styles, was normally a symbol of status, signifying prosperity and electricity. Nevertheless, my desire is for a more informal, asymmetrical model, working with very simple shapes—domes, balls, and layered cones—to convey an factor of pleasurable to a garden. This model is motivated by the a lot more naïve, natural and organic shapes discovered in modest cottage gardens—often released by gardeners who have been employed by grander homes and who needed a minimal whimsy in their areas.

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


Either way, topiary provides permanent construction to a backyard garden. In their recent e book, Winter season Gardens, Clare Foster and Andrew Montgomery eloquently exhibit how planted framework retains the garden collectively around the winter months, its bare bones uncovered and its toughness emphasised by a dusting of snow or glistening frost. It is this toughness and elegance that I attempt for, utilizing a range of trees and designs to attain a harmonious group of “players” that have you as a result of and around a backyard, foremost the way and marking alterations 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 garden at Levens Hall in Cumbria, intended by Guillaume Beaumont (college student of Versailles visionary André Le Nôtre), is an example of the 17th­-century Dutch design and style, the place extremely theatrical types rise from more compact backyard garden spaces.


I appreciate that topiary is taking pleasure in a renaissance these days. We’re seeing it employed a lot more in modern garden design and style, where by designs like platforms and cubes choose up the model and style of contemporary homes and anchor a bigger house in its landscape. Equally, topiary can truly feel really Elizabethan—an era I am constantly influenced by—bringing scale and antiquity to a property. Domes and balls can soften gateways and changeover points. And by clipping indigenous trees, these as field maple, we can reduce the degree of formality, incorporating an aspect of shock and naivety. Copper beech is a common alternative in modern types, pleached or clipped in layers or spirals, but also satisfies much more historic landscapes and adds supplemental color to the back garden in colder months as it retains its dried bronze leaves right until the new development pushes by in spring. Yew and box can incorporate excess weight and, grouped intently jointly, can enable give a sense 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 Hall, mod­ernist yew sculptures by Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf.


I go on to be impressed by gardens that rejoice the artwork of topiary, such as Levens Hall in Cumbria wherever a love of clipped trees is a should for people! Its exuberance and sheer scale correctly showcase topiary as a horticultural art type. Even a fleeting check out to this garden—or any of the quite a few great topiary displays—is a fantastic tonic, inviting you to immerse by yourself in the trees and surprise at their splendor.

This report at first appeared in the March/April 2022 challenge of VERANDA. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer illustrations by Tug Rice manufactured by Dayle Wood composed by Arne Maynard

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