Saturday, March 13, 2010

How much is too much when it comes to topiary?

Last weekend I finally got the chance to visit Richmond Garden in the Wairarapa. This is a privately owned formal garden which opens its gates for a fee to the public. Inspired by the 16th and 17th century gardens in Italy the owners designed theirs less than 10 years ago. I couldn't help but be impressed by the mammoth task they had set themselves but at the same time I couldn't help wondering "why bother"?

The owners cleared mature native trees from the property and replaced them with hundreds, if not thousands, of European specimens. Everything is green - not a splash of colour anywhere. That's just not my cup of tea. The endless box hedging clipped within an inch of its life seems stifling and unnatural. Give me wild borders, roses clambering for attention or even lush natives doing their own thing naturally any day.

I shudder to think of how much work is involved in maintaining this sort of garden. Could you ever just sit back and enjoy a glass of wine from the balcony (and what a great balcony that was)? One leaf out of place could throw the whole symmetry out. I'd be a nervous wreck.

The best part of my tour was the vegetable garden. There the box hedging is seen in wonderful contrast to the rambling beans and the tomatoes laden with ripe fruit. At last I saw some colour.

I have, however, started toying with the idea of incorporating my own version of topiary into my quite informal garden. I am growing 2 little Buxus and am slowly shaping them into balls. I don't know why I just said slowly, it's not like Buxus grows any other way. I am also trying out Lonicera Nitida,or poor mans buxus - perfect for the impatient gardener like me. Plus I have grown some Rosemary from cuttings and am attempting to snip them into standards. When these all grow to a significant size I will place them in or near various beds to act as focal points. Stay tuned!