How's your garden shaping up?

How's your garden shaping up?

outdoors

 The art of training live plants to grow into pre-determined shapes by clipping their leaves, stems and twigs is an ancient one, almost as old as the Roman civilisation!

If you are yearning to make your garden more attractive, then you should try your hand at topiaries. Intrigued? Surely you must have noticed plants shaped into birds and spheres in parks? They’re topiaries.

The art of training live plants to grow into pre-determined shapes by clipping their leaves, stems and twigs is an ancient one, almost as old as the Roman civilisation! Chinese penjing and Japanese bonsai are related arts.

 The Japanese also practise cloud-pruning (shrubs are clipped into cloud-like forms), karikomi (topiary technique for Zen gardens) and Hako-zukuri (shrub-clipping into boxes and straight lines). Disneyland incorporated topiaries of cartoon characters decades ago. Today, we often spot plants styled into corporate logos too. Artificial topiary is an imitation of the living pruned plants and is used in both home and office decoration indoors.


Today, topiaries are not merely grown from the ground but are also created in containers that can be used to line balconies, porches and pathways leading to doors besides livening up the indoors too.


Traditional topiary prunes plants to form geometric shapes like balls, cubes, obelisks, pyramids, cones and tapering spirals. Animals and birds, hearts, stars, diamonds and a line of spheres are other favourites today. Topiaries can be created using either shrubs or vines. Since the former requires more expertise and has a longer gestation period, it’s the latter that’s usually recommended for beginners.


The frame of the desired shape can either be purchased readymade or fashioned from wires, chicken mesh or old coat-hangers, to name a few materials that lie around the house. You need to stuff it with dampened sphagnum moss and fix it firmly into a container filled with a mixture of clay and potting soil. Next, plant a vine/shrub, directing its tendrils around the frame. For vine topiaries, English ivy is most popular since it’s easy to maintain, hardy and beautiful. Herbs can also be shaped into topiaries.


If you’re using a large form, you can let two or more plants grow up the frame. Pick a correspondingly heavy container too. Recommended materials are ceramic and clay pots. For making a topiary with a grown shrub, you can either use a frame or dispense with it if you are a seasoned artist. Remember, however, this is a very slow process and you need to very patient. Pruning will encourage bushier growth. But, take care not to snip off lengthy stems or there will be glaring holes in your frame!


You can also create topiaries for indoors using dried flowers, herbs and spices like cinnamon sticks. Use them for kitchen decoration or as dining-table centrepieces. They make great gifts too.
A Dyuti
 

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