Annual haircuts all round – fringes, bobs and curls


Ha, I am not talking about me. I avoid getting my hair cut to the extent that last year’s look was achieve by pulling it all up in a ponytail and chopping it off at the tie (I blame the Bourne Ultimatum).

No, I am talking about trees and hedges.

From July onwards I slowly work my way around the garden doing the annual trimming: Firstly the two leylandii that screen the house next door (I didn’t plant them, but I keep them narrow and to about 9 foot), then on to the hornbeam hedge at the front separating us from the road, next the copper beech wrapping round the patio/pergola sitting area and finally on to my topiary experiments.

Copper Beech hedging

Clipped copper beech hedge in the distance, surrounding the patio. Bay tree spirals to the right, halfway through their annual cut.

The first of these topiary projects was a box (Buxus) ball purchased by my son when he was little and was enthusiastically buy plants and gardening in one of the raised beds in the vegetable area. He has long since stopped doing anything on the bed, but curiously (and I have small tendrils of hope growing here) he has started to tend a small window garden when he is at uni so that he can have fresh basil and chives when he cooks. Meanwhile, I kept the box ball clipped, until I eventually thought it would be fun to let another bobble grow.


Box ball in the vegetable plot – at the two ball stage

Over the years it has sprouted two further balls (it is now four balls tall), but that is the last I will allow because I am not very good at controlling their waist lines. The topiary is now decidedly pudgy and just a bit lop-sidded. Unfortunately, I suspect that it’s wide bottom tier provides a nice sheltered environment for slugs, so I may have to re-think it’s shape. Having seen the drastically reduced box knot garden at Hatfield house recently, I will probably risk major cutting at the bottom.

Topiary box balls

Clipped Box balls at the edge of the vegetable patch.

The second project also dates from the kids school days, to a period when I ran the plant stall at the summer school fete. In addition to the walnut tree that now graces the hillock in the corner, I acquired a pot of seedling bay trees (Laurus nobilis). I planted just one in each of the front corners of the (then) new pond area.

baby bay

Bay trees early on in their lifecycle. (Copper beech hedge at edge of patio is also recently planted)

The bay grew uninterrupted, until one day I realised just how wide and large they had become. Rather than remove them, I clipped them into tall cones and draped rope in a spiral around them. Then I set about cutting into the cones along the rope to form a spiral rill running round the trees. A couple of years later I was brave enough to cut them hard, all the way to the central trunk and branches. Finally the spirals looked about right.

Now I just trim them every year and the effect is like edging a lawn: they look so shaggy to begin with:

Bay spirals before the annual trim

Bay spirals this year before the annual trim

However they emerge with sharply defined curves and curling structure (very rewarding):

Bay spiral topiary

Freshly cut Bay spirals on the patio

In spite of this imposed tight structure each year I find small nests in the trees. The small birds seem to love them. This year for instance, I had to wait for goldfinches to vacate their nest at the very top of the near one before I could prune.

Do you have a topiary pet project?

About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
This entry was posted in Nature, Plants, The home garden, Trees, Whimsy and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Annual haircuts all round – fringes, bobs and curls

  1. You have an interesting garden. Hedge trimming here is my least favourite job and it has recently been taken over by my husband who takes a mathematical approach. He was always underwhelmed by my haphazard attempts. Such a relief and now the beech hedges look great and are ready for winter.

    • Well, it sound like you are using your resources optimally, especially if it takes any stress away! My husband likes using the electric hedge trimmers, but for years I hand clipped everything so I get pretty wary about letting him near the hedge.

  2. susurrus says:

    I enjoy seeing other people’s topiary, but I don’t have the nature to do it myself. Even my hair isn’t that tidy!

  3. You have a good eye and vision to create these topiary shapes, I love the bay spirals and box bobbles. I hardly dare trim my own fringe and stick to forgiving box balls – then hope my dear old mum will come and do both hair and topiary for me. Your garden is very interesting, full of wonderful surprises.

  4. Chloris says:

    I am so impressed at your amazing topiary. I wish I could do those wonderful spirals. I did make a box snail in my previous garden but that was because there were 2 box bushes side by side. I also tried to do a cat but it never looked like a cat, just a badly mangled bush. I love your topiary, it gives such structure to the garden.

    • Geometric shapes are all I can manage to visualise in 3D. (I had the same problem when I tried a wood carving class, where I produced a cat that was truly dreadful). I am starting a new experiment with abstract cloud pruning on a couple of yews though. 🙂

  5. Robbie says:

    You are an artist! I just love your garden:-) I have found they do inherit their green thumb later in life ( when they have their own place) it is fun to watch!

  6. Julie says:

    Love this, I can imagine the satisfaction you have once its all clipped and looking fabulous. Your own hair do sounds interesting too!!

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