February 6, 2023

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British Yard Designer Arne Maynard on Topiary Design

4 min read

I continue to vividly don’t forget noticing topiary for the initially time. I was just 3 or 4 a long time previous, using the bus into the area industry city in the vicinity of where by we lived in Dorset to go purchasing with my mother. I often wished to sit upstairs so I could see around the hawthorn hedge of a individual property we passed, enthralled by the unbelievable wedding-cake clipped yew in the front backyard garden. It was so specific, so properly shaped, and I was mesmerized.

A lattice of box, with each other with yew domes and box balls, gives framework to softer plantings in Maynard’s facet yard.

Britt Willoughby Dyer

In almost all the gardens I have made about the globe considering the fact that I started my practice in 1986, I have utilized topiary to some diploma, no question affected by these early recollections. Historically, topiary was deemed a incredibly formal ingredient, related with massive, grand gardens and set out in rigid designs to accentuate axes and punctuate official spaces. Opulence in garden design, like the use of these clipped shapes, was normally a image of position, signifying prosperity and power. Having said that, my choice is for a a lot more informal, asymmetrical type, employing uncomplicated shapes—domes, balls, and layered cones—to deliver an component of enjoyment to a yard. This design is motivated by the far more naïve, organic styles discovered in modest cottage gardens—often launched by gardeners who were employed by grander homes and who needed a very little whimsy in their spaces.

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


Possibly way, topiary provides permanent composition to a garden. In their new e-book, Wintertime Gardens, Clare Foster and Andrew Montgomery eloquently display how planted structure holds the backyard alongside one another above the winter season months, its bare bones uncovered and its energy emphasized by a dusting of snow or glistening frost. It is this energy and class that I strive for, utilizing a range of trees and styles to obtain a harmonious group of “players” that carry you by way of and all around a back garden, leading the way and marking alterations in its atmosphere 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 back garden at Levens Corridor in Cumbria, built by Guillaume Beaumont (university student of Versailles visionary André Le Nôtre), is an illustration of the 17th­-century Dutch fashion, where exceptionally theatrical forms increase from scaled-down garden spaces.

Hole Photographs/NICOLA STOCKENL

I appreciate that topiary is taking pleasure in a renaissance these days. We’re looking at it used much more in modern day backyard style and design, exactly where designs like platforms and cubes select up the model and layout of contemporary attributes and anchor a much larger property in its landscape. Equally, topiary can feel very Elizabethan—an era I am continually inspired by—bringing scale and antiquity to a house. Domes and balls can soften gateways and transition details. And by clipping indigenous trees, this kind of as field maple, we can lessen the diploma of formality, adding an component of shock and naivety. Copper beech is a common preference in up to date types, pleached or clipped in layers or spirals, but also satisfies far more historic landscapes and provides added colour to the backyard garden in colder months as it retains its dried bronze leaves until eventually the new expansion pushes as a result of in spring. Yew and box can incorporate body weight and, grouped intently alongside one another, can aid 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 Corridor, mod­ernist yew sculptures by Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf.


I go on to be inspired by gardens that celebrate the artwork of topiary, this sort of as Levens Hall in Cumbria where by a love of clipped trees is a need to for website visitors! Its exuberance and sheer scale perfectly showcase topiary as a horticultural artwork kind. Even a fleeting take a look at to this garden—or any of the lots of excellent topiary displays—is a excellent tonic, inviting you to immerse you in the trees and wonder at their splendor.

This article initially appeared in the March/April 2022 situation of VERANDA. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer illustrations by Tug Rice made by Dayle Wood published by Arne Maynard

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