Topiary is the art of shaping plants, either by growing them into or around a mold, breeding them selectively, or carefully trimming and maintaining them. It can mean anything from bonsai trees to Goblet Of Fire-style mazes to giant shrubbery shaped like Dumbo. This ancient art form dates back to Roman times, but is probably most familiar in its 19th Century British incarnations – the vast, sprawling, shaped gardens and mazes of the British aristocracy. But, even if you don’t have much of a green thumb (or if plant sculpting isn’t one of your talents), you can still get that regal, manicured plant look in your own home.
One of the most common – or at least one of the most familiar topiary shapes is the garden spiral. While you probably wouldn’t want to put this Rosemary Spiral outside (the leaves are made of plastic), a pair by an entryway, inside or out, or several lining a closed patio or conservatory, adds a regal, sophisticated touch. This shape evokes a British garden, especially when paired with popular English wildflowers, but unlike a live plant, doesn’t need to be maintained.
This Boxwood Topiary, with its rounded tiers, is the other most common topiary shape. Depending on the height of the plant, boxwoods can have only a single round, or as many as three or four, usually stacked directly on top of each other. Like the spiral, this is a silk plant, and it comes in a decorative urn, which makes a lovely accent piece for a parlor or drawing room.
Unlike the other two traditional topiaries, which are designed to look like the maintained plants they’re modeled after, this Moss Ball is a little more whimsical. It mimics the shape of a boxwood topiary, but plays up on the fantastical aspect of a shaped plant with its bright color and slightly cartoonish look. Made of actual moss and then preserved, this plant requires no maintenance, but has the look, feel, and smell of a living plant – though admittedly one out of Wonderland.
Where the first moss ball looks like it might have come out of a Disney fairy tale, this Shade Green Ball is a little more Grimm Brothers. The tangled, slightly thorny branches take the place of a trunk, and give the moss (which is darker than the other) a wild and untamed look. The pot it comes in is great, too – the distressed, aged stone finish really completes the look.
This Lush Moss Topiary is similar, using the same dark green moss, but unlike the other two moss topiaries is designed to look more like a small tree or shrub. I really love the combination of slightly overgrown twigs and antiqued planter with the relatively neat and distinctly unnatural rectangular shape of the plant itself. Again, it reminds me of a fantasy world where plants grow in shapes humans have to go out of their way to maintain here.
If you really aren’t aiming at all for realistic, but like the stacked orb style of boxwood topiaries, there are plenty of funky silk floral arrangements done in boxwood style. Personally, I think this Silk Artichoke Topiary is pretty neat. Of course, artichokes have a special place in my heart as an edible, but the green, blossom-shaped veggies simultaneously evoke the layered petals of a rose and (especially if you like to eat ‘em) a bountiful harvest scene. This one is just the right size for a desk or table.
This faux Avocado Plant Topiary is one of my favorites – it’s small enough for a desk, with realistic looking leaves and miniature avocado fruits secured in permanent mossy soil in a really fantastic little planter. Both compact and elegant, this particular topiary also makes a great gift, as avocados symbolize love and beauty.
If you like the idea of topiary, but don’t have the know-how to grow or maintain your own, but want your friends and neighbors to THINK you do, you probably want to look for something middle-of-the-line; shaped, but not too shaped, natural looking but casual. This Olive Trellis is designed to look like olive branches growing into a wire frame (that, if it were really growing, you would trim around to maintain the shape). Even if you aren’t faking it, this is a nice Romanesque accent plant – and it also makes a great peace offering!
If you’re looking for something styled after a bonsai, but aren’t looking to empty your pocketbook – or learn how to maintain a tiny, hundred year old plant – you might want to look at something like this Tiny Ficus. Tiny leaved branches planted in permanent, moss-covered soil look like the real deal – a little forest so small you could fit it in the palm of your hand.
Just remember – you don’t have to be a skilled gardener or a bonsai master to get the great look of topiary in your own home – you just have to have to pick out the right plant and the right pot, and let your guests assume what they will! But what made you consider topiary for your home? Until recently, I thought it was something for big gardens on the other side of the pond, but now I’m thinking about that ficus! What about you? Let me know in the comments!