British Backyard Designer Arne Maynard on Topiary Style and design

I even now vividly try to remember noticing topiary for the first time. I was just 3 or 4 yrs aged, riding the bus into the regional marketplace city in close proximity to the place we lived in Dorset to go shopping with my mother. I normally needed to sit upstairs so I could see about the hawthorn hedge of a particular home we passed, enthralled by the extraordinary wedding-cake clipped yew in the front backyard. It was so specific, so correctly shaped, and I was mesmerized.

arne maynard side garden topiary garden wales
A lattice of box, with each other with yew domes and box balls, gives structure to softer plantings in Maynard’s side garden.

Britt Willoughby Dyer

In practically all the gardens I have built about the world because I began my apply in 1986, I have made use of topiary to some degree, no doubt motivated by people early reminiscences. Ordinarily, topiary was thought of a pretty official factor, linked with massive, grand gardens and established out in rigid patterns to intensify axes and punctuate formal areas. Opulence in backyard garden style and design, such as the use of these clipped styles, was often a image of standing, signifying prosperity and power. Nevertheless, my preference is for a a lot more casual, asymmetrical fashion, employing uncomplicated shapes—domes, balls, and layered cones—to bring an component of pleasurable to a yard. This design is influenced by the more naïve, organic and natural designs identified in modest cottage gardens—often introduced by gardeners who were being employed by grander houses and who desired a small whimsy in their spaces.

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


Possibly way, topiary adds everlasting construction to a yard. In their the latest guide, Winter season Gardens, Clare Foster and Andrew Montgomery eloquently display how planted framework retains the garden jointly more than the winter months, its bare bones uncovered and its energy emphasized by a dusting of snow or glistening frost. It is this strength and magnificence that I attempt for, applying a variety of trees and styles to attain a harmonious group of “players” that carry you by and all-around a back garden, main the way and marking modifications 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 backyard garden at Levens Corridor in Cumbria, created by Guillaume Beaumont (student of Versailles visionary André Le Nôtre), is an instance of the 17th­-century Dutch model, in which exceptionally theatrical varieties increase from lesser yard spaces.


I adore that topiary is taking pleasure in a renaissance nowadays. We’re observing it made use of more in modern day yard design and style, where shapes like platforms and cubes select up the style and structure of present day homes and anchor a bigger house in its landscape. Equally, topiary can really feel really Elizabethan—an period I am frequently motivated by—bringing scale and antiquity to a home. Domes and balls can soften gateways and transition factors. And by clipping indigenous trees, these as subject maple, we can lessen the diploma of formality, including an factor of surprise and naivety. Copper beech is a well-known selection in up to date patterns, pleached or clipped in levels or spirals, but also satisfies extra ancient landscapes and provides more shade to the back garden in colder months as it retains its dried bronze leaves until the new expansion pushes via in spring. Yew and box can incorporate pounds and, grouped carefully collectively, can assist give a perception 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 Hall, mod­ernist yew sculptures by Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf.


I carry on to be influenced by gardens that celebrate the artwork of topiary, these as Levens Corridor in Cumbria exactly where a love of clipped trees is a ought to for people! Its exuberance and sheer scale properly showcase topiary as a horticultural art sort. Even a fleeting pay a visit to to this garden—or any of the a lot of great topiary displays—is a great tonic, inviting you to immerse oneself in the trees and surprise at their beauty.

This posting at first appeared in the March/April 2022 concern of VERANDA. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer illustrations by Tug Rice produced by Dayle Wood penned by Arne Maynard

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