Friday, 23 September 2011

Top Topiary...

Topiary is the art of clipping trees and shrubs into strange and wonderful shapes and has a history as old as gardening itself. Sometimes in, and sometimes quite out of fashion, none can deny the presence of grand old specimens, their timeless forms carrying us across the generations. They give stability and permanence to a garden. Every one is a character, magical and mysterious. Meet them by moonlight and you will see what I mean!

Seemingly permanent, yet in reality a fragile legacy from the past. As much of the moment and of this year as any annual. These art forms are not abandoned on completion, but are reworked and refreshed through an unbroken line from their creation, decades or centuries past. 

If not re-crafted, re-shaped and re-made each season their crisp outlines and solid forms would quickly grow out and disappear. They are our living link with the generations that have gone before us. It is this sense of continuity as owners and gardeners come and go that make them so special.

It has been my privilege to work with one of the biggest and oldest gathering of trimmed trees, in the garden at Levens Hall for much of my working life. I am also often called upon to rescue or revive endangered topiary elsewhere. 

All the topiary specimens you see on this page are all part of a wonderful collection in a private garden in North Yorkshire. I have been sculpting and developing them for the past ten years...

Pairs of clipped birds seem to call to one another from their plinth like perches surrounding the house. While further down the garden there is a long hedged enclosure, a gallery garden housing the most amazing collection of green clipped sculpture...


  1. These are extraordinary, Chris. I've only got a small bit of hedge and a couple of box balls and I make such a meal of trimming them. Did you ever get it very wrong and how long does it take to do one bird?

  2. Wow Chris, these are absolutely stunning. They must take some maintenance but what an amazing result. Lovely description of the link across the ages that tending them gives you.

  3. Outstanding! You should be very proud of your work!

  4. LOVED this post. Such sculpture. The gardens are wonderful fantasy worlds. You must clip the plants more than once a year? They are so perfectly smooth looking.

  5. These plant sculptures are about a century old. It takes me about an hour to do each one. Hand shears and secateurs for the detail, and a long reach petrol trimmer for the larger surfaces. Lightweight scaffold and a plank gets me up and across to where I need to be. Just one clip a year...


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