Freeform Topiary Sculpture

lois_scissorhands(z78B.C CAN.)June 3, 2003

it appears there are many of you out there that are interested and knowlegable about topiary. does anybody not use wire frames? i have been snipping for about 15 yrs. i have toured wholesale and retail nurseries all over western canada and NWusa and have never seen wire frame topiaries.

i have much info to share. any response would be appreciated.

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Lizabet(z6 MD)

I'm relatively new to this. I have two topiaries in training. I've been working on both for three years. The first is a boxwood dragon, using a frame as a guide. I'm really surprised a the speed it's neck and tail are filling in. I get a lot of comments on it.

The second is an arborvitae that I'm trying to train as a rooster. It doesn't have a wire form. I'm trying to do it free form. But what a challenge! It is much more difficult to keep it looking discernably like a rooster. Naturally, it is the more obvious one being about 9 ft at the top of its head. If you have any hint on how to keep it in shape I'd appreciate it. Now that I've been pruning it for a couple of years the growth at the end of the branches is so thick that it weighs the branch down and it sticks out awkwardly. If I just try shearing it, all the growth gets loped off and it leaves a bare spot.

If you are looking for a frame they are available on the net or ebay.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2003 at 5:06PM
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lois_scissorhands(z78B.C CAN.)

your dragon sounds interesting. i've done a few shapes from box, i'm working on a heron for a friend. i did a swan with just one wire to get the curve in the neck.
what var. of arb. is your rooster? i've worked with many,emerald green,brandon, and holmstruppi for spirals. globe woodwardii is great for cubes, easy for hearts clubs diamonds & spades. you may want to try staking the heavy branches on your rooster until they are strong enough to hold the wieght.
one of my more unusual pieces is a capital L in my hand writing done from a small leaf maple.
i'm going to experiment with letters done with creeping rosemary this yr.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2003 at 11:27AM
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Nell Jean

I free form my topiaries, Korean Boxwood mostly. Besides the usual meatballs on top of meatballs, I've pruned some that are not prominent in my garden into a low hedge with three chickens walking across the top.

They're not yet looking like real roosters, but I keep snipping away at them.

Someone in another thread asked if anybody had a topiary auto in their garden. I have a group of old boxwoods that are large enough to prune into a minivan, but that's not what I plan for them.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2003 at 12:04PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I have a 'crocagator' made from Japanese Holly called Ilex crenata, 'Convexa'. It is about 23 years old and about 50 ft. long. It can be viewed at

The garden can be viewed at

Mike McGarvey, Seattle

    Bookmark   August 5, 2003 at 2:22PM
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lois_scissorhands(z78B.C CAN.)

Wow! Mike that is one crazy looking gator! Thanks for sharing.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2003 at 1:58AM
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MeMyselfAndI(5/6 central OH)

I don't understand the wire form, either. Sounds more like an interestingly shaped trellis to me.

I'm curious if one normally waits for a shrub to be full-grown before trimming it into shape, or if it is best to start with a younger plant and shape it from the start.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2003 at 9:17PM
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I am starting a boxwood salamander with small boxwoods. I have time. I need to make basically right angles at the legs so they come into the body (up, then over). Do I just keep cutting everywhere except on the body side of the legs, so that it GROWS out horizontally towards the body, or do I let the whole leg grow UP and then bend it over towards the body? I assume I use some kind of armature if I do that.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2004 at 10:40PM
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liliania(z5 CO)

Hi everyone, I'm a newbie to this forum, and would love to see photos of the topiary others have been growing. Does anyone have photos of how their topiaries have grown and changed over the years? Any suggestions for mail order companies to purchase frames from? I want to grow a large Chinese dragon topiary, with boxwood, probably. Somewhere on the Net, I read about someone who had a dragon topiary that included a motion sensor. The dragon belched steam when people approached it. Anyone have any suggestions about how to create such a topiary? Anybody have any photos of a topiary like this or know of a link that shows dragon topiaries?

    Bookmark   January 13, 2005 at 1:20AM
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THEBLUROZE(z5 Illinois) that crocagator. I know you said it was approx 50 feet long. How tall is it?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2005 at 2:08PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

It's almost five feet tall. The crocagator gains weight everytime I go on vacation. I should have made him longer because he grows fatter and not much longer so his neck is getting shorter. He's due for a radical haircut next spring.

Here is a link that might be useful: Crocagator

    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 5:32AM
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mrbrownthumb(z5 Chicago)


That's very nice. Thanks for sharing a pic of your sculpture.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2005 at 11:13PM
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Xtal(z8b Temple. TX)

I've never done a topiary before. So, I want what might be my first and only attempt to be good. I'd like to do a horse or two, standing or evening rearing up. I wonder if anyone has any suggestions for me with regards to the type of wire structure that you'd recommend. What ivy would be good for it in zone 8?

Any input would be appreciated,

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 12:26PM
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I've created quite a number of topiaries over the years, and never used a wire frame. I have used stiff wire to help "arms" stay in position. I also once created a scale model of a Dodge Viper for a dealership and used wire to help form the windshield and wheels. The rest was free form.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 7:19PM
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I have two large rosemary plants that I have been trimming for cooking and flower arrangments only. One plant is 10 years old the other is 7.
On the plant that is now seven years old, I did trim it up from the bottom and it has what could be two legs like a duck or hopefully a roadrunner. The 10 yr. old plant is very full and almost 3 feet across.
We live in the country and have wild life come into our yard. My favorites are the foxes and roadrunners. Anyone think it would be possible to shape the large plant into a fox? If so, I need some good instructions, as I have never done a free from topiary, but have done several sculputers.
I would love to give both plants free form animal shapes. All suggestions and advice will be appreciated.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 10:38PM
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