How to Create Shrub or Hedge Art

What You'll Need
Handsaw to cut bigger stems
Tarp to collect clippings
Lightweight sticks
Galvanized wire

You can create beautiful shrub art by trimming your hedges into animal shapes or other interesting configurations. This type of garden art is known as topiary and can be formed by even a novice gardener. Depending on the type of shrubs you are working on, your hedge art may take a few months or up to 3 years to take shape, but it is worth the effort in the end.  

Step 1- Select the Appropriate Shrub

Begin your shrub or hedge art in late spring or early summer when your plants have a new growth of leaves. Look for a shrub with a particular shape in mind because some hedges have similarities to the shapes of certain animals. Sometimes shrubs suggest certain design ideas just by the way they are formed.  

Step 2 – Initial Shape Trimming

When you have an idea of what animal form you want your hedge trimmed into, you can begin creating your artwork. If you have a small bushy hedge, you can begin shaping it into the body of a small animal. At this stage you want a basic shape and nothing detailed. Make small cuts instead of extreme ones, clipping all through the summer.  

Step 3 – For a Small Animal

For a small bird, cut your shrubs into an oval shape. Insert 2 sticks into the body to determine where the head and tail will be. Determine which stems you will use to make the head and tail, and tie them to the sticks with thread if necessary to keep them in place.  

As the hedge continues to grow in the summer, trim the growing stems at both ends to shape the head and tail of the bird. You may need to twist certain stems to coax them to conform to a certain shape and prevent them from over growing. Keep stepping back to access your work and determine if a certain area requires more trimming.  

Continue cutting and training through the following summers and remove the support sticks once the shape is more defined.  

Step 4 – For a Large Animal

If you want to create larger animals in a sitting position, trim your shrubs into a basic rectangle shape and insert sticks for the head and tail. Continue trimming the animal into shape as the summer progress.

Tall standing animals can be created using long skinny shrubs. Use the lower shrubs as legs and begin snipping the upper parts to form the body shape you want.  

Step 5 – Wire Frames

You can also create any shape you want with the help of galvanized wire. Bend the wire into the desired shape and fasten it to the ground. Train the shrubs to grow over the wire and inside it, trimming it when needed.  

Step 6 - Care

Remember to keep your shrub art watered and mulched if necessary. Mow the area around the hedge to remove any weeds, and spray with insecticide if pests become a threat.