After much consideration, research and nerve mustering, at last I have taken the bull by the horns – or should I say, the shears by the handles – and topiarised our handsome two metre tall (and rapidly growing) Cupressus tree!
The tree was a birthday gift four and a half years ago when it was about ten centimetres high and part of an arrangement in a basket. In fact it is the sole survivor of said arrangement. We wanted a tree in the garden and had the perfect place for it, so I proceeded to plant it out and it has established itself well. In fact it has grown remarkably quickly, to a point where we realised we needed to think about how to control its height before it got too tall to maintain. That’s when ideas of topiary started to invade my mind…
I began paying more attention to topiary on the television and recalled the fine examples Laila told me she’d seen when visiting Versailles and more locally some we saw when we visited Alan Grey‘s beautiful gardens at East Ruston Old Vicarage. All food for thought, gently spurring me on and giving me the courage I needed to have a go myself. But it’s a bit like being entrusted to cut someone’s hair – easy enough to snip bits off but impossible to stick them back on again if you make a mistake! No pressure then.
My first idea was to do a spiral, so I went on the internet and downloaded some appealingly clear and well illustrated instructions – it looked simple enough. A few weeks later I emailed the experts on BBC Radio Norfolk’s The Garden Party telling them my plans and asking their advice. Alan Grey was very encouraging but suggested graduated balls might be a better design to start with… so now clipped balls had been thrown in the topiary mix.
Today is the day
My next inadvertent delay tactic was that I didn’t have the right tools for the job. I imagined I might need something a bit like sheep shears – one-handed jobbies – and I started having visions of Edward Scissorhands… Several more weeks went by. Then it was summer and not really the best time of year to do topiary, what with all that lovely hot sunshine to tarnish the freshly cut ends.
Then last weekend I woke up and just knew the day had come. The weather was perfect – mild, dry and slightly overcast – so I strode to the shed and found a pair of loppers, my edging shears and some secateurs. I then went back to the tree and looked at it long and hard – wheels and cogs whirring in my head. I plunged my hands into its fragrant dense lime green foliage and had a really good feel. I located the main trunk and noted the direction that the branches grew which was at about 45°. Hmmm.
Then I picked up my secateurs and began cutting, branch by branch, stem by stem, from the bottom up. Fairly near the base there was a secondary trunk coming out from the main trunk, so that had to come off if the end result was going to be symmetrical. Therefore fairly major surgery had to take place before I could continue. However, once removed, I felt empowered to carry on with renewed vigour.
And then there was no stopping me! It was addictive and before long I felt I’d grasped the concept and started to enjoy myself, every so often downing tools and taking a few steps back to check the over all shape was being maintained. Secateurs to begin with then onto shears for fine tuning – which is the messy bit… and that’s where I slipped up because foolishly I didn’t put a sheet down to catch the debris. Note to self, and anyone else who’s interested, ALWAYS put a sheet down before you start – it took me well over an hour to tidy up afterwards!