When some people think topiary, they envision a small grouping of potted miniatures shaped like lollipops. Others picture a pair of boxwood spirals flanking a front door. For some, what comes to mind are the life-size character topiaries at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
Then, of course, there are trees and shrubs growing from the ground that are artistically fashioned into geometric, arched and other shapes.
Topiaries come in many forms, sizes and materials but have one thing in common: They get noticed.
These are “statement plants,” said Cathy McGovern, owner of the Trillium’s Courtyard in Snyder.
McGovern has several topiaries on display at the 2013 Decorators’ Show House – and she’s not alone. They are found throughout the 14,400-square-foot estate – from small grapevine topiary balls to large topiary trees that fill a corner. Decorators and florists have us thinking that the classic topiary might just be having a major moment – once again.
“I think they come and go, but they have been around forever, and there are various ways of creating and controlling them,” McGovern said. She placed a pair of Eugenia topiary – pruned into the shape of double balls – on either side of the exit door at this year’s Show House.
For a second look, Algerian ivy grows on a round wire form for a topiary placed on the stairs leading to the enclosed porch.
Elsewhere in the house, an elephant-shaped topiary greets visitors to the sitting room off the master bedroom, while other forms of topiary are displayed in pots on floors, tabletops and mantels.
John M. Hochadel, owner of Flowers etc. of Buffalo, noted that topiary looks right at home in a country estate setting, such as this year’s Show House, the Knox Summer Estate at Knox Farm State Park, 437 Buffalo Road, just outside the Village of East Aurora. (Decorators’ Show House, a major community fundraiser presented every other spring by the Junior League of Buffalo and The Buffalo News, continues through May 19. See www.jlbuffalo.org for details.)
Long a feature in formal gardens, topiaries also deliver a sense of elegance to other settings or events. Hochadel once created azalea topiaries as centerpieces at a wedding.
While many topiaries are living plants, they do not have to be. Faux topiary, such as artificial or “permanent botanical” spiral boxwoods at a front door, can work for many people.
“I recommend those to people who don’t want to have to take care of their plants,” McGovern said.
A few tips for topiary:
• Group them. Hochadel likes to see ivy topiaries in pairs on either side of a door or fireplace mantel. Groups of three in different heights work as well.
• Repeat shapes. Pick the same topiary shape and stagger the sizes. On its website, Southern Living shows a pair of ivy orbs – one smaller than the other – planted in cast-iron urns with pedestal bases. See them at www.southernliving.com. The editors also offer this tip: “To keep orbs and other shapes lush and free of bare spots, rotate the pots and trim plants to encourage equal growth on all sides.” You’ll also need to water properly.
• Mix and match shapes. Another idea from Southern Living: For a garden-theme tabletop display, mix spirals, globes, columns and lollipop shapes of varying heights but plant them all in terra cotta pots to unify the look.
• Go grapevine. In the master bathroom at the Show House, Melissa Pleace took a 10-inch grapevine topiary ball, placed it on an 18-inch-tall brushed-nickel candle holder on the rim of the tub and embellished it with her late grandmother’s antique beaded clip-on earrings.
Whether it’s a grapevine topiary ball or tree, “a lot of times people add beading, greenery, moss, flowers or feathers,” Pleace said.
• Learn proper care. Read labels, talk to a florist or plant expert at a garden center, research online.
• Get creative. Search “topiary” on the Martha Stewart website, for example, and you’ll find features on topiaries created from ivy, fresh rosemary, peppermint candy or yellow flowers – as well as tips for trimming and maintaining.
Looks like things are really shaping up for spring.