The Garden Guide


Topiary is the art and craft of cutting plants into decorative shapes, sometimes abstract and often representative of animals or geometrical forms. The practice of topiary was popular in Roman gardens and revived with the renaissance, with Francis Bacon writing in praise of topiary. Topiary has then gone in and out of fashion at regular intervals. Alexander Pope, and the English landscape movement generally, ridiculed the use of topiary. The Arts and Crafts movement, associating topiary with 'pre-Raphaelite' gardens encouraged serious hedge-clipping. Great Dixter is famous for its topiary. The Modern Movement was against topiary on the grounds that the forms did not follow any functions and in any case 'ornament is crime'. Since then topiary has resumed its ancient popularity. Enthusiasm for garden restoration and period gardens encouraged the taste for topiary. The restored of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg has a Wren building, a formal garden and topiary. Guillaume Beaumont's work at Levens Hall is perhaps the most famous topiary in England.

Topiary is a way of giving highly deliberate shapes to plant material. It is a way of delighting the eye with care and craftsmanship - providing, of course, that you like that kind of thing.