Clipped green hedges and whimsical topiary – the art of clipping or trimming hedges into fantastic shapes – offer a visual means of defining boundaries and delineating different areas of the garden that’s easy on the eye. It also makes the perfect backdrop for flowers.
Topiary is Latin for landscape gardener and is said to date back to the ancient Romans. But the art form really became synonymous with the ‘English garden’ back in Tudor times when knot gardens created with clipped plants and geometric parterres – the ornamental arrangement of flower beds of different shapes and sizes – featuring low clipped greenery became immensely popular.
Later, Capability Brown, probably the most famous of English landscape gardeners, included parterres in his designs, often using them in the foreground of sweeping, natural landscapes that usually featured an expanse of water in the middle distance with a clump or island of trees at one end, to give the impression the lake went on forever.
Box is the most versatile species for snipping into topiary. With its crisp edges and clean outline, elegant box hedging is the easiest way to define different areas of your garden and create the English look. Widely used in both formal and more casual gardens, it has year-round, rich green foliage, an ability to grow both in sun and partial shade and a high tolerance for pruning. Privet, Japanese holly and yew also work well.
For fairly simple, rounded forms try holly, bay, myrtle, laurel and pittosporum. For low mounds try naturally small plants such as Euonymus fortunei and hebe. For a less structured look that’s still smart, flank paths with low lavender hedges.
Traditionally all topiary work was done by hand. There was strictly no use of pruners or hedge trimmers which nowadays help to speed up the cropping process. Instead, garden shears and clippers were commonly used to maintain the cultivated designs.
In fact, it was most likely slaves carrying out the topiary work when it first became popular in Roman times. Later, those with sufficient wealth would have hired gardeners to carry out topiary work. The majority of European topiary gardens were created for decorative purposes only. However, having a topiary garden was seen as a sign of wealth.
One of the most popular forms of topiary these days is potted topiary – an easy way for you to incorporate the influences of topiary into you own garden landscape. It also gives you the flexibility to locate the plants wherever you want them.
Shaping a hedge or bush is generally only limited by a hedge’s type, size – and your imagination! Topiary is relatively easy to do and just requires a little practice.
But before we become too adventurous, let’s look at the basics. The most common hedge in the UK is the straight, formal hedge. Giving your hedge a simple ‘top, back and sides’ is relatively simple.
Smaller hedges can be cut by eye, using an electric hedge trimmer with the user periodically stopping, standing back and checking that the hedge is straight.
For larger hedges, it is recommended that you hammer two stakes into the ground at either end of hedge. Tie a piece of string at the height you wish to cut and pull it taut to create your straight line. This can then be used as a cutting guide to ensure that the hedge is evenly cut. The same principles apply if you are cutting a square hedge or want to achieve a slope.
The question of when to cut a hedge – or trim or prune it – is an important one. As a rule, deciduous hedges can be trimmed in mid to late summer, while evergreen hedges are best cut in early spring or early autumn. For maintenance purposes, May to September is the trimming season, usually every four to six weeks – but that will depend on growing conditions and your ability to tolerate an unsightly garden!
For a rounded cut, you should start around three inches from the top of the hedge. To achieve the curve, you will have to use your eye and instinct. Keeping the hedge trimmer at an angle, move it away from your body and to the top of the hedge. Keep repeating this motion as you move around the hedge to create an even finish.
Unfortunately, unless you intend to use wire mesh, there is no other way to create this shape other than by eye – good reason then to try out your technique on a less prominent hedge before you attempt your work of art.
If you’re shaping the top of your hedge, for example into an arch, create a template of the shape your require from cardboard or plywood. Place the template on the hedge and cut following the line of the template, moving it along as you go.
Spiralling is the most popular form of topiary, and though it looks complex, the steps are easy to follow with a keen eye and a some practice.
First, you need to make sure your hedge is the right shape. Start by trimming it into a cone with the base as the widest point.
Do this by locating the central point of growth at the top of your hedge and working away and down from there to achieve the cone shape. If your hedge is looking a bit thin, give it some time to grow before returning to create the spiral shape.
Using a piece of string, map out where you would like the spiral to sit. This will help to guide your shears as you work around the plant evenly. Work up from the base of the plant, cutting at an angle below the string to remove foliage to create the spiral shape. As you progress, allow the angle to increase gradually to give the spiral more definition.
If you want to add a ball on top, cut using the rounding method as before, but also make sure you remove the branches directly below the ball to make it stand out on top of the spiral.
Some hedges, such as hawthorn, privet, conifers and box are tall and therefore best for achieving spirals and other taller topiary shapes. Others, such as beech and hornbeam are slightly stockier so are more suited to smaller shapes.
Rounded hedges, spirals and balls can be achieved with time and practice. But what about irregular shapes?
The only answer is it’s tricky and you’ll need to become accomplished at working with wire mesh.
Create your shape with the mesh so that fits nicely around your hedge or bush. Sit the frame on top of your hedge and then neatly cut around the mesh using your electric hedge trimmer or hand shears. By trimming regularly, it will slowly train your hedge or bush to grow in the shape you want.
Did you know it is an offence to cut a hedge if you know birds are actively nesting in it?
It’s an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built, or to intentionally kill, injure or take chicks or adults, or intentionally take or destroy any eggs.
The RSPB recommends avoiding hedge cutting during the main breeding season for nesting birds, which usually runs throughout March to August each year. This can be weather dependent and some birds may nest outside this period, so it’s important to always check carefully for active nests prior to cutting.
The correct hedge trimmer will make your work safe, fast and efficient – and we have just what you’re looking for.
The all-new Aguri T20V Cordless Hedge Trimmer is compact and lightweight – it weighs only 2.5kg – and comes with a 20V 2.0Ah Li-ion rechargeable battery providing up to 25 minutes of continuous run time.
As there are no long, trailing cables, the cordless hedge trimmer is far more convenient to use than a traditional corded or petrol hedge trimmer and it’s safer too, removing the risk of accidentally cutting through power cables.
You can enjoy the freedom and convenience of our T20V Cordless Hedge Trimmer for just £169.99 RRP, but if you buy today you’ll be able to take advantage of a special offer discount code saving you £60!
There’s also the option to buy a two-battery bundle to keep you trimming for longer, which also comes with a £60 saving.
Cordless electric hedge trimmers make the work easier as you can trim as far as you need, don’t have to trail cords behind you, and can use the trimmer for as long as the battery charge lasts, and that in itself has improved greatly thanks to the introduction of Lithium ION (Li-ion) batteries.
They not only provide more power and last longer than their predecessors, they can also deliver 100% of the energy right until the battery is empty.
Although our 20v 2.0Ah Li-ion rechargeable battery provides up to 25 minutes of continuous run time, you can now extend your trimming time by buying extra batteries.
Just arrived is the Aguri Cordless Power T20V 20V Rechargeable Battery. It is totally compatible with our new trimmer and costs £34.99.
And completing our hedge trimmer range is another new product – the Aguri Cordless Power T20V Battery Charger, designed to recharge the Aguri Cordless Power T20V rechargeable batteries (please note it will only be compatible with these batteries). It has a RRP of £24.99 and you can buy our hedge trimmer battery charger online.
Free delivery comes as standard with all of our products, as does Aguri’s outstanding customer service!