October 18, 2016

How I Use Potted Topiary in my Garden Beds

Topiaries in pots set in the front beds accentuate the vertical lines in my English Tudor home and its lamppost.

I posed the following question recently on Facebook (you can follow me here), and now  I ask you as well:

 Do you like potted topiaries 'floating' in garden beds or do you find them distracting?

There is no right or wrong answer, but it is an interesting, subjective question in garden design to ponder. I can see either side of the issue, so, while I obviously fall into the category of LIKE vs distracting, I do try to adhere to certain guidelines in using topiary in the landscape to keep such dissonance and visual interruptions to a minimum. Here are some points to consider if you too enjoy their sophistication and appeal in the garden border. (For a  p o t a g e r post on other plant materials to use for topiary, go here). 

Generally, I like things in threes, though often a third non-topiary element (like the extreme verticality of my oak) can serve as the last element in the triangle. 

1.  I wanted them to match the scale of my landscape and home.

These Eugenia topiaries are three years old and fairly large, about 4-5 feet tall and about 15" across. They are in large, real terra-cotta pots, as light weight terra-cotta alternatives don't, in this relatively unprotected area, remain upright in our strong Oklahoma winds. Even THESE heavy pots succumb on occasion (like today and yesterday and the day before that... AARRGH!!) when our proverbial winds are REALLY 'whipping down the plain'. 

I use a mix of both terra cotta and aged concrete in the beds and on the porch.
2.  I went with traditional pots to match the traditional style of my home. 

Anything aged, traditional in appearance, and in terra-cotta or concrete would have worked. While I want them to have heft for sturdiness, I don't want them to be SO prohibitively heavy that I cannot move them myself, or have issues with weight when they overwinter in the greenhouse each winter.
Because of this,  I went with terra cotta, slightly lighter in weight, but meeting my other criteria.


Eugenia in one, two and three tier forms, are distinctive and yet harmonious.
3.  I used just one type of plant for each of the three pots.

While in the back I use all form of plants for topiary, in the front I want to prevent visual dissonance and create as much harmony as possible. Plenty of other visual variables, on my property and others, compete for the attention of the eye. Using just one plant material, albeit in various 'poodle' and topiary forms, lends itself to more continuity. In this case I use Eugenia, in the myrtle family, because of its good nature, good performance and good looks. (For a fun way to while away some time, look at the Eugenia Pinterest page here and indulge your topiary obsession.)


Keeping topiary straight and upright can be a challenge, but very handsome and satisfying when they cooperate!

4.  It is difficult, but worth the effort I think, to keep them as straight and vertical as possible.

Okay, I know this is overly fastidious... and gives great insight into my garden-control fixations, but I do think that NOT being attentive to their straight and vertical stature... can be visually distracting and uncomfortable to the eye. Ironically, I spend far more time straightening and getting these beauties to 'fly right' than I do tending the plants themselves! So if you drive by, tell me if this
is not the case...

Now I need to work on that wayward, and very heavy birdbath.
but please don't judge me if they appear tipsy!

The balls/verticality of the topiary both contrast and echo the rounded forms of the pumpkins and cushion mums.
Please do drive by if possible and tell me what you think!
The glossy foliage looks beautiful when it catches the golden light of fall.

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