Monday, 24 August 2015

THE ART OF TOPIARY

THE ART OF TOPIARY


According to historians, the practice of topiary has been around for centuries, over 2000 years to be exact.  


Cnaeus Matius Calvinus who was around at the time of  Julius Caesar,  reportedly introduced these clipped forms to the Roman Gardens.  Romans loved extending their homes by way of a terrace or outdoor living rooms pretty much as we all love to do today.

I marvel at the compliance of the humble Buxus,  how it tolerates neglect, abuse, lack of rain, too much sun, too little sun etc.  The one thing it will not tolerate, however,  is having it's roots standing in water.  We planted  Buxus hedges around the courtyard on the south side of our house.  The veranda was not equipped to handle the flooding effect of sudden downpours,  and as a result and because of the clay present in our soil,  the Buxus would sometimes stand in pools of water for days.  We have now installed adequate drainage  and have hopefully stalled the loss of plants.   Buxus are so stoic that they rarely show signs of dying and when one finally notices that they are failing,  they are usually beyond help.

A few years ago, we made a small parterre garden at our house in France.  As this little house remains locked up for long periods,  I decided that trusty Buxus would be the answer.  The garden has no symmetry of any description.  I could only gain perspective by standing on the little balcony upstairs and while drawing the plan.  We then ordered a variety of hedging and topiaries and luckily had just enough to complete the plan.  Photos below show the garden as it is today.






We have lots of Buxus in our garden in Bowral, too much some would say!  Buxus in small pots clipped into various shapes,  large Buxus cones which are vertically pleasing and  large Buxus orbs sitting on corners between continuous rows of Buxus hedging.  These shapes and ribbons of green, give form and add a tracery to an otherwise lifeless garden during the Winter,  although I must admit that they do eventually turn a sort of bronze colour during the cold months. 

A week ago,  I began re-potting the smaller pots as they were looking a bit sad.  I tapped each plant out of the pot,  cut back the roots and shook out the old soil.  Then back they went into the fresh potting mix, to which I added fertiliser and hopefully they will soon all look fresh and healthy!  The rain we have had in the past two days will definitely help them along!









I was in Topiary Heaven during our recent trip to the UK and France where we visited many gardens!  More photos below.

This was the cemetery in the village of Goult in Provence.  We rented a villa nearby,  but it was only on our last day, that Mr R-I took this photo for me as he had discovered these marvelous shapes when doing the daily croissant/newspaper run.

This is the beautiful garden of the Villa we rented where, as you can see,  Buxus plays a major part!

Below are more wonderful topiaries we saw in various gardens in the UK

Yew topiaries at Rodmarton - 

Buxus topiaries at Rodmarton

A garden in the Cotswolds, the name of which escapes me.  Love the Hen and chicks!

A great combination of Yew and Buxus at Lower Slaughter Manor House

Barnsley House

Barnsley House

Abbey Manor House Garden in Malmesbury

Abbey Manor House Garden


Abbey Manor House Garden


Hidcote - These are not strictly topiaries but the Stilt garden was wonderful!

Hidcote
I think it's pretty obvious that I am keenly awaiting Summer!  Have a very happy week everyone!


ps ...  This morning stumbled across a divine post by Charlotte Moss where she talks about Topiary and shows some perfect examples of her work in this art form.

19 comments:

  1. What a splendid reportage, Jenny.Very well put together, I cant wait to get to the serre to do some re-potting. Love the almost exclusively green blog! XXL

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    1. Thank you darling Louis!... your comment is wonderful to receive! XXJ

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  2. Lovely post Jenny,
    So love topiary too and buxus is such a forgiving plant. I cant imagine not using it in my garden- it gives it form and greenery especially in winter, in a rose and herbaceous border.
    I have tried other forms of topiary and have two pines, we have cut into swirls and over time (they are 15 years old) they have taken an organic form of their own , something I have had to embrace as I love symmetry so much.
    Love how your garden in France has matured- its often harder to get a smaller garden too look good all the time but you have achieved that. Well done.
    Marilyn xx

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    1. Thanks so much Marilyn. I am presently trying to edge most of my beds with Buxus as it gives a finished look. In a small garden, one has to look after every little bit!! xx

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  3. Buxus takes some prime real estate in my few plant boxes outside my house! I usually let it grow which ever way it wants to because I like the constant green it provides but the other month I thought for fun I would shape it in line with the box. Of course Mr CSW had to come and point out my less than geometric trim! I do appreciate its hardiness bc my gardening is random and not constant enough for anything too needy. I do love your garden design. How long does it take between trims before it looks like it needs a trim when you have such fine shapes? Beautiful as always Jenny xx

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    1. Hi Naomi, the buxus in our French are trimmed only once a year!! A team of three gents arrive for the entire day and they do an amazing job! I like them to do this when I'm there... Buxus love being trimmed so go ahead and trim away!!... Thanks so much for stopping by xx

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  4. Gorgeous!!! I cannot grow buxus but we have lots of hedges and a few teeny topiaries. I am in love with your French garden it is just divine xxx

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    1. Thanks so much FF .... Is it too hot up there for Buxus? xx

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  5. Topiary is such a lovely art form.
    I love symmetry so they really appeal to me .
    I'm amazed that you can leave your garden in France to look after it's self for such long periods and it still looks brilliant.
    I particularly love the topiaries in the gravel and was wondering how they survive but thinking about it I assume the gravel acts a as a mulch.
    I'm still working away in my garden and am happy the way it's coming along.
    Thanks for sharing the gorgeous photos. The hen and chicks made me smile

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    1. Hi Karen, I have two visits a year from a little local team... one visit is to trim all the buxus as well as other hedges and general tidy-up and the other is just before winter when they prepare the garden .... some of the plants get covered as it usually snows there during the colder months. Loved those hens and chicks too... thinking of trying to make some here! xx

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  6. I wonder how buxus would fare in my Perth garden… We've recently moved into a new house where pretty much every plant in the front garden is to be replaced and I'm hunting for ideas. With our sandy soil it certainly wouldn't be standing in water (ever...!). I might talk to my local nursery and see if buxus would work here. Thanks for this lovely long post.

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    1. Hi Prue... I'm sure buxus would work in Perth... in fact, I remember seeing plenty of it when I was last there. I would imagine that the Japanese Buxus would be a better fit. Thanks so much for commenting! x

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  7. Love this post! Both of your gardens are a delight! And thank you also for glimpses of other beautiful gardens in England and France. Wish we'd known how wonderful the topiary is in the cemetery in Goult. A few years ago we had a very pleasant lunch in the village with a friend. In a great little bistro (think it was something like La Poste) in the centre near the car park. Fabulous local food, though our friend says it's now changed hands and isn't so good. We could very easily have explored the cemetery but it just didn't occur to us.
    Our back garden can get very water logged after heavy rain and therefore not suitable for buxus or lots of other things - we've had different people in to assess and give quotes but they all say different things and of course the quotes are very high. Apparently not all agricultural drains are successful - you need to get someone who really knows what he's doing - and I'm sure you have. But we wouldn't have a clue who was good and who isn't. So most of our buxus is in pots. Best wishes, Pammie

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    1. Hi Pammie... Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Goult is possibly my favourite village in Provence. There is a wonderful butcher there which we frequented during our holiday! Good luck with the drainage problems as I literally shudder at the mention of the word 'drainage'!! Have a great week! xx

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  8. Hello, Jenny -
    Pure bliss in your beautiful garden! So lush, elegant and civilized. As well as outside, I love topiaries inside - the more, the better. There is a myrtle topiary or two in front of every sunny window in our home. And, now, I need to go water a few :)
    Cheers,
    L

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    1. Thanks so much Loi! I love how we can arrange and re-arrange our topiaries - bringing them inside and then taking them outside. Simple pleasures! How do you look after your boxwood in winter? Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  9. I have been a fan of topiary for quite some time and it's true that there are many wonderful exampes in the UK. In fact you have reminded me to revisit Levens Hall and the famous Topiary Gardens (about forty minutes drive from home) The buxus in our garden generally flourish as a result of all the rain here!! Your garden in France looks wonderful and has matured well. Great post and fabulous photos!
    PS Thank you for your comment . I can certainly recommend Munich and I would happily go back there just to enjoy the Provence cake again!!

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    1. Hi miss b - Thank you for stopping by! We missed Levens Hall unfortunately but have it on our list for next time!

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  10. Oh I'm late to the topiary party here! But I adore it. I've had topiary for 21 years now, and you're right it's managed to survive periods of extreme neglect! I just adore your garden in France, it's sublimely beautiful. Hopefully once my side garden with gravel grows a little it will capture some of the magic you've managed to create in yours. xx

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