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Topiary and the Art of Training Plants [Hardcover]

David Joyce , Laura Stoddart
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Library Journal

In this guide, gardening writer Joyce focuses on the use of topiaries and other ornamentally trained plants as garden design elements. In addition to aesthetic recommendations, the book offers technical information such as step-by-step illustrations for creating plant sculptures and landscape plans. Although this title--previously published in a U.K. edition--has been adapted to appeal to a North American audience (for example, the appendix includes lists of plant and tool sources in the United States and Canada), all but one of the photographs feature topiaries, hedges, and standards in European gardens. This bias is regrettable, given the notable tradition of ornamental pruning as practiced at Pennsylvania's Longwood Gardens and other public gardens in North America. Recommended for large horticultural collections as an optional supplement to more practical works, such as Joyce's Complete Guide to Pruning and Training Plants (S. & S., 1992. o.p.).
-Brian Lym, City Coll. Lib. of San Francisco
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Shaping plants can entail simple methods, such as guiding a flowering vine so that it covers an arbor or neatly clipping a hedge into a rectangle. The highest form of topiary art encompasses shapes that are more difficult to achieve. Joyce explains the technical steps necessary to achieve an array of plant forms that will function in the garden as living sculptures. From trees grown in cone shapes to ornamental tiered standards and remarkably complex animal forms, the stunning photographs reveal captivating examples of topiaries displayed in splendid garden settings. Joyce's handbook offers an instructive tour that will surely fire up the imagination of keen gardeners. A directory of recommended plants and suppliers is included. Alice Joyce


Joyce's handbook offers an instructive tour that will surely fire up the imagination of keen gardeners. (Alice Joyce Booklist 2000-03-15)

Technical information such as step-by-step illustrations for creating plant sculptures and landscape plans. (Brian Lym Library Journal 2000-05-01)

Turn greenery into living sculpture ... concise directions for creating basic geometric patterns or elaborate ivy ponies, chickens and bunnies. (People Magazine 2000-04-17)

An interesting instruction manual on how to get just about anything out of a willing shrub. From simple geometric shapes to whimsical animals, everything is here. Need to get rid of stress? Take up boxing. Want to trim some bushes and get stunning results? Read this book. (Susan Banks Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2000-03-04)

The book describes the how-to of plant sculpture and offers practical tips for rejuvenating neglected trees, shrubs and hedges. (Birmingham News 2000-03-12)

Training is half the battle ... David Joyce does a wonderful job of teaching about shaping, training and caring for trees and shrubs, so you get exactly the effect you want. (Linda Turk Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal 2000-04-11)

Clipping yews into obelisks and boxwoods into pyramids is mere child's play compared to some of the more astounding creatures in "Topiary and the Art of Training Plants." The living sculptures in this book may prompt you to pick up hand shears and snip away on the unruly euonymus. (Dan Vierria Sacramento Bee 2000-04-08)

For most of us, this book with its exquisite photographs is a little like pornography, exciting to watch but who actually does something like this ... And yet...after just an hour with this book you'll never look at the common yew again without peering deep into its being and wondering what a clip here, a snip there might yield. (Rebbeca Cole Ottawa Citizen 2000-05-06)

This book is a treasure to those who want to embellish their gardens with living sculpture and architecture. (Phoenix Home and Garden 2000-09-01)

This seductively illustrated and photographed book is full of clever ideas for adding geometry and structure to the garden, as well as being a detailed manual on how to prune. (Valerie Easton Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer 2000-09-10)

About the Author

David Joyce is a celebrated garden writer and planting consultant, and an expert in the techniques of pruning and training plants. He has written many books, including The Ultimate Container Garden. He lives in England.

Laura Stoddart's illustrations appear in many magazines, including Gardens Illustrated, World of Interiors, Gardens Illustrated and Vogue Entertaining. The delicate style of her work will be familiar to readers as the illustrations on Crabtree & Evelyn products. She also lives in England.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Excerpted from the Introduction

In praise of trimmed plants

The fashionable revival of interest in topiary and other components of formal gardens allows us to see what have always been their strong points. One of these is weight. Topiary and hedges give a reassuring impression of established order and permanence in the garden that is difficult to achieve in any other way, except by stone and brick masonry. An assembly of formal components can create a garden of calm solemnity; and topiary and hedges also combine well with the more ephemeral effects of color and texture. Living sculpture and architecture have their own seasonal changes, an attractive moment being when new growth threatens to obscure clipped shapes But at its best the year-round framework of green needs no floral titillation in spring and summer to give it value. And, if the layout has been thoughtfully designed, green architecture works well with real architecture, extending the lines of buildings and completing vistas

In this respect formal gardens show remarkable adaptability. In the past they have often been seen as mediating between the house and the landscape beyond, whether looking out on an Italian view of hills and valleys or, in a grand French garden, framing perspectives that seem to extend to infinity; but the reality for many gardeners is that the best chance of making something worthwhile of a small to medium-size urban plot is to avoid making connections with the world beyond. To do this, a self-contained design is needed, its internal structure working even when it is fully enclosed. Hedges and other living screens of the formal garden create the shelter and privacy that make a little paradise possible, and topiary or patterned planting can ensure that the garden has a satisfying internal dynamic. The combination of hedged compartments and topiary can provide the basis for some of the simplest and most pleasing designs for small gardens, while container-grown topiary and trained plants are versatile garden components for paved yards or patios and balconies.

Gardeners who have never attempted topiary often feel that mysterious and labor-intensive techniques are involved in forming a shape that may take many years to reach maturity. This is not so. The only really essential requirement is a little self-confidence. The few techniques involved are simple and within the competence of inexperienced gardeners. The plants most commonly used are remarkably tough, and with good sharp tools all the clipping is light easy work. Furthermore, topiary is not time-consuming to look after. In the formative stages and even when the shapes are mature, simple cones and pyramids under 6ft (1.8m) high can normally be clipped in five minutes or less. A satisfying small-scale shape can be achieved in a few years. And almost everyone who has trained and maintained topiary speaks of the formative pruning and subsequent clipping as a pleasurable and highly satisfying activity.

Hedges, knots and embroidered patterns are inevitably more time-consuming to look after. They are not intrinsically difficult to lay out and, provided the plants used are slow-growing-such as boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) and yew (Taxus baccata) -- there is only one major burst of activity a year. With powered hedge-trimmers even long hedges can be clipped quite quickly, but the maintenance should be planned before planting on a grand scale. Working from ladders and platforms or trimming detailing of any kind add considerably to the time it takes to cut hedges.

The important thing is to be aware of how much effort is required for each technique and attempt only those that suit you. Whether you try a boxwood cone or a yew tunnel, the potential rewards are considerable. Gardeners of different tastes find in topiary, and in the use of hedges and patterned planting, a way of creating something of marked individuality, even when the formula has been used so often before. Countless variations are possible in the arrangement of geometric shapes and in the weave and flow of patterns. For many gardeners, however, the great delight of topiary is the possibility of expressing their own lighthearted fantasies in a sympathetic, easily worked medium. The models of the past remain a major source of inspiration for gardens today, but the scope for innovation in the treatment of space and juxtaposition of familiar and unfamiliar abstract shapes gives topiary and the use of hedges and patterned planting an exciting future.

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