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Gardening: Cutting edge

PUBLISHED: 01:16 24 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:15 20 February 2013

Gardening: Cutting edge

Gardening: Cutting edge

Stately, shapely, fun and formal, topiary brings year round interest to your garden. Crown Topiary at Hertford has an eclectic mix of fabulously shaped shrubs and trees as Philippa Pearson discovers...

THE Romans invented topiary. Ingenious gardens were made by the topiarus, a sort of Roman landscape gardener, but it wasnt until Tudor times that topiary really took off in England when Henry VIII introduced it into his gardens at Hampton Court Palace.

I love using topiary in gardens for the formal clean lines and crafted shapes they bring: sharply cut pyramids, classic cubes and spherical balls mix wonderfully with soft plantings of perennials, grasses or formal groups of roses and other shrubs. As an advocate of planting for year round interest, I find topiary ticks all the boxes as plants used are mostly evergreen and give lots of enjoyment in the garden during the quiet winter months.

Family run business Crown Topiary at Hertford is one of the largest specialist topiary nurseries in the UK and is quite unique in focusing on just topiary, and no other plants. But what an inspirational place the nursery is as you wander down avenues of neatly clipped plants of all shapes and sizes that beckon to be placed in a prominent spot in a garden.

Wendy Hammond and Anita Southwell took over Crown Topiary in 2000 from Wendys parents who started the business in the 1980s and have amassed an outstanding range of topiary and supply royalty, celebrities, local authorities, garden designers and gardens large and small with their creations.

Quite a few plants are propagated and grown on at the nursery: all the pleached trees and arches are trained and grown by Wendy whilst Anita likes to get creative with the topiary shears and skilfully sculpts art forms. At the start of making one of her creations, Anita doesnt always know exactly what the finished shape is going to be.

I spend time looking at the shrub and walking around it, she says. Theres usually something about the way it is growing that inspires me to make it a chicken, duck, bicycle, figure or something a bit more unusual! This is not for the instant gardener, though, as plants can take three to four years to mature into a finished shaped topiary creation.

Walking around the nursery, theres an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary topiary shapes. As well as elegant pleached beech arches, box spirals, cones, balls, and pyramids, Crown Topiary also produce some lovely topiary parasols from trees like ornamental pear, lime and mulberry.

Topiary parasols are great to bring areas of shade into a garden whilst pleached trees are a contemporary solution to add extra height and privacy if planted in front of fences. If you want to add a touch of Japanese to your garden, try incorporating some lovely pom-pom topiary shapes. I spotted some lovely cloud-like creations made from Japanese holly and pine which would look equally good in large containers or as a focal point in the garden.

Crown Topiary also offers a clipping service where a team of experienced gardeners will come and visit your garden to shape your topiary, perfect if youve a large space, and topiary plants can be hired for special occasions. Wendy and Anita also plan to hold some courses at the nursery this year looking at how to cut and shape topiary and other subjects.

RHS Silver-Gilt medal winner Philippa Pearson is a garden designer and professional horticulturalist, awarded Peoples Choice Award for Best Show Garden at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2010. Visit or contact her on 01767 651253.


Visit Crown Topiary

This wholesale nursery is open Monday to Friday to the trade. Gardeners and other visitors are welcome to make an appointment for a visit. Please contact Wendy or Anita to arrange this and to discuss your requirements

Crown Topiary
234 North Road
Hertford SG14 2PW
Telephone: 0 1992 501055


How to use topiary in the garden

Borders For classical lines, edge borders with a low box hedge to set off planting

Entrances Add elegance with a pair of standard topiary plants either side of entrances. Standards are also useful in borders to add height

Driveways and paths Flank either side with rows of round box balls, pyramids or standards to create a statement

Knot gardens Low box hedging and other plants can be clipped into intricate patterns to create traditional knot gardens

Patios and seating areas Use contemporary or traditional containers for your topiary to match your gardens theme


See topiary in Hertfordshire gardens

Hatfield House
Hatfield AL9 5NQ
01707 287010
The gardens and house are open from April 23 through to September 30. The East Garden is open on Wednesdays whilst the West Garden and other areas open more frequently. Check website for full details.

Knebworth House
01438 812661
Topiary and pleached trees in the gardens. Opening times vary throughout the year, check website for details.

St Pauls Walden Bury
Hitchin SG4 8BP
01438 871218
Formal gardens in a classic design and woodland areas. Garden open Sundays April 3, May 8, June 12, 2pm-7pm


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