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How Do I Make a Boxwood Topiary?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2016
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Gardeners who want to create a boxwood topiary will need to start with a small shrub they can prune and train as it matures to create the desired shape. Mature shrubs are much harder to shape, although it is possible, with some patience. Many gardening stores carry boxwood, often in several varieties, along with other shrubs suitable for use in topiary creation. Gardeners can grow their shrubs in containers or directly in the ground, depending on climate, available space, and personal preferences.

In topiary construction, gardeners use careful cultivation to force a shrub to grow into a desired shape. Orbs are very common and are the most basic example, but it is also possible to force shrubs to grow into the shapes of animals, hearts, and other designs. Boxwood is well suited because it is very robust, grows rapidly, and tends to be forgiving of pruning accidents. If a gardener makes a mistake, it is possible to recover after a few weeks or months.

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Before starting a boxwood topiary, it is advisable to sit down and make out a plan, sketching the desired shape and thinking about how it will integrate into the garden. If a gardener plans on having symmetrical shrubs, like matching triangular topiaries on either side of a gate, planning ahead is very important. The shape may also reveal the need for supports like wires to force an arch or other shape in the boxwood topiary, in addition to trimming to shape the shrub and maintain it once it grows to the right size.

Gardening wire is helpful for holding a boxwood topiary in place as it grows. It is important to regularly check wired shrubs to make sure the wire is not digging into the bark and flesh of the branches. Stakes can also be helpful with tall, narrow shapes to provide support until the plant is stable enough. In addition to training with stakes and wires, gardeners also need to regularly prune, clipping the tips of branches to maintain an even shape and promote leafing out as opposed to branching. Waiting too long between sessions may give the plant a leggy appearance and can create holes in the foliage. While these are repairable with time, they will look unsightly for several months.

Hand shears are the most suitable for boxwood topiary, allowing the gardener to precisely control the pruning and shaping of the plant. Electric and gas-powered clippers are available, but they can be hard to use with curved and other complex shapes. In addition, any pruning mistakes tend to be magnified; it is possible to cut through a major trunk by accident while using electric trimmers, for example, while this is much harder with manual pruning.

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