British Backyard Designer Arne Maynard on Topiary Design and style

I still vividly remember noticing topiary for the initial time. I was just 3 or 4 a long time old, riding the bus into the local market place city in close proximity to where by we lived in Dorset to go searching with my mother. I always desired to sit upstairs so I could see around the hawthorn hedge of a certain property we passed, enthralled by the extraordinary wedding-cake clipped yew in the entrance backyard garden. It was so specific, so flawlessly shaped, and I was mesmerized.

A lattice of box, together with yew domes and box balls, gives structure to softer plantings in Maynard’s side backyard garden.

Britt Willoughby Dyer

In almost all the gardens I have made all-around the environment since I began my exercise in 1986, I have utilized topiary to some degree, no question motivated by these early memories. Customarily, topiary was considered a pretty formal aspect, related with significant, grand gardens and set out in rigid designs to accentuate axes and punctuate official spaces. Opulence in garden layout, such as the use of these clipped shapes, was frequently a symbol of status, signifying wealth and power. On the other hand, my choice is for a more casual, asymmetrical model, using basic shapes—domes, balls, and layered cones—to bring an element of entertaining to a backyard garden. This design and style is inspired by the much more naïve, organic styles discovered in modest cottage gardens—often launched by gardeners who were used by grander houses and who required a very little whimsy in their areas.

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


Both way, topiary adds long lasting structure to a back garden. In their latest guide, Winter Gardens, Clare Foster and Andrew Montgomery eloquently demonstrate how planted structure retains the backyard jointly around the winter season months, its bare bones exposed and its strength emphasized by a dusting of snow or glistening frost. It is this power and elegance that I try for, working with a range of trees and styles to attain a harmonious group of “players” that carry you by and all around a backyard garden, primary the way and marking improvements in its ambiance 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 garden at Levens Corridor in Cumbria, intended by Guillaume Beaumont (pupil of Versailles visionary André Le Nôtre), is an instance of the 17th­-century Dutch design and style, wherever exceptionally theatrical kinds rise from smaller sized back garden spaces.


I appreciate that topiary is making the most of a renaissance currently. We’re looking at it used far more in up to date backyard structure, in which designs like platforms and cubes choose up the model and layout of modern-day homes and anchor a much larger house in its landscape. Equally, topiary can truly feel really Elizabethan—an period I am consistently encouraged by—bringing scale and antiquity to a residence. Domes and balls can soften gateways and changeover points. And by clipping indigenous trees, these kinds of as field maple, we can reduce the diploma of formality, incorporating an factor of shock and naivety. Copper beech is a popular preference in present-day layouts, pleached or clipped in levels or spirals, but also fits extra historical landscapes and adds further color to the backyard in colder months as it retains its dried bronze leaves till the new development pushes through in spring. Yew and box can include excess weight and, grouped intently collectively, can assistance 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 go on to be influenced by gardens that rejoice the art of topiary, this sort of as Levens Hall in Cumbria where by a appreciate of clipped trees is a must for website visitors! Its exuberance and sheer scale flawlessly showcase topiary as a horticultural art type. Even a fleeting take a look at to this garden—or any of the lots of great topiary displays—is a great tonic, inviting you to immerse yourself in the trees and surprise at their magnificence.

This post initially appeared in the March/April 2022 situation of VERANDA. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer illustrations by Tug Rice developed by Dayle Wood written by Arne Maynard

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