Shaped evergreens

Clipped box hedges, strong geometry using evergreens shaped carefully into balls and pyramids, evenly spaced in uniform lines or sections, can give a garden – front or back – a contemporary lift, writes Hannah Stephenson.

Even a couple of box balls or standard bays in pots either side of your front door can give your home a grand entrance feel.

If you want to add some formality to your patio this summer as a backdrop or accompaniment to pots which are full of colourful 
blooms, topiary may be the answer.

Potted topiary can add emphasis to a garden design, for example, placing uniformly clipped globes along the edge of a path. Shaped plants are often used in formal settings, but can also act as valuable exclamation marks in more informal schemes.

Among the plants easiest to shape to your requirements are box (Buxus sempervirens), sweet bay (Laurus nobilis), yew (Taxus baccata) and privet (Ligustrum delavayanum).

While slow-growing evergreens are the traditional topiary plants, you can use climbers to cover wire frames for a faster result.

So, where do you start if you want to have a go?

Beginners should start with a simple box ball or bay pyramid that has already been trained to shape and keep it that way by trimming it twice a year, in early summer and early autumn. Potted topiary also needs to be watered well in summer and protected.