Topiary art, kézako? No mole or unknown artistic movements are behind this name. Topiary is simply a way of trimming shrubs to give them the desired shape. It is particularly the prerogative of French gardens . However, some plant varieties lend themselves more than others to this type of creative cutting, which also requires a bit of technical know-how. Let’s see right away which shrubs to choose for a successful rustic topiary!


  • topiary art
  • 1. Boxwood
  • 2. L’if
  • 3. Privet
  • 4. Cypress
  • 5. Ivy

topiary art

Topiary art comes from the Latin ars topiaria , which can be translated as “landscape art”. This is a technique for pruning plants for decorative purposes. The cut tree or shrub then takes on, for example, a geometric shape, or looks like a character or an animal. The most common plant species for topiary design are boxwood, yew, laurel, cypress, honeysuckle, privet, hornbeam, crenellated holly, and ivy . Let’s take a look at the five rustics best suited for topiary. And don’t forget: before and after each cut, it is necessary to disinfect your shears carefully to prevent the spread of diseases.

topiary art
Park in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal – Credits: Vlada_Z/iStock

1. Boxwood

Boxwood is the topiary plant par excellence. With its evergreen, dense foliage and composed of small dark green leaves, it does not lack assets to lend itself to this practice. Its compact shape guarantees good cut resistance. In addition, its slow growth makes it possible to limit the cutting frequency. Finally, it is resistant to pollution as well as low temperatures down to -20°C. Boxwood is THE topiary plant par excellence: round shapes, spirals or even the most daring characters , it is undoubtedly the best known species for topiary art.

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Topiary art
Topiary art, Tulcan Ecuador – Credits: pxhidalgo/iStock

2. L’if

This conifer consists of long, flat needles of a glossy dark green. Robust, the common yew is ideal for structuring conical, pyramidal or spiral architectural forms. Its slow growth means that you have to be patient to obtain a high enough topiary, but it nevertheless allows you to reduce the frequency of cutting compared to other shrubs. Taxus baccata has an exceptional longevity that can reach several thousand years. It withstands temperatures down to -15°C. The arilberry yew also lends itself well to pruning in the form of a cone or pyramid .

art topaire
Credits: CelsoDiniz/iStock

3. Privet

Privet is a shrub that has pretty little evergreen or semi-evergreen oval leaves. Dense and bushy, it can reach up to 2 m in height. It supports the size very well! A little extra: in the spring, it offers fragrant flowers. It appreciates rich and not too dry soils, and supports calcareous soils and pollution. This hardy plant is also resistant to temperatures ranging from -10°C to -30°C depending on the variety. Privet is ideal for making spheres at ground level or raised spheres at the end of a stem.

topiary art
Credits: MaYcaL/iStock

4. Cypress

The cypress is a tall conifer. Its evergreen leaves form small scales that cover its branched stems. At maturity, it can reach a height of 5 to 18 m and a maximum width of 5 m. Its great longevity makes it capable of living several hundred years. Cypresses find their place in Provençal or Italian style gardens . They are otherwise undemanding, but do best in well- drained, sun-exposed soils . Cypress is a hardy plant that withstands negative temperatures down to -15°C and is resistant to spray, strong winds and drought. Isolated, its columnar and filiform port allows it to be cut in a spiral, cone or pyramid .

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topiary art
Buen Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain – Credits: Nanisimova/iStock

5. Ivy

As surprising as it may seem, ivy is also a good candidate for topiary. If it has the ability to grow in the corners of the garden and withstands temperatures down to -15°C, it also adapts easily to a metal support or a wall as shown in the photo below. It is possible to make the desired shape yourself from chicken wire. Another very trendy DIY solution : outdoor topiary shapes found in garden centers. They allow you to obtain  a shape from an object and not by cutting… clever!How to proceed ? Plant the shape in the pot, and place the ivy in the center in the case of a fillable shape and on the sides for a flat silhouette. As it grows, guide the ivy stems and mist the foliage often.

Topiary art
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Amazing & Bizarre

Amazing & Bizarre is a gardening blog dedicated to curious gardeners and lovers of rare plants. Find all our natural gardening advice, our culture sheets, our original cooking recipes, our DIY tips and our creative ideas!

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