Topiaries are an excellent addition to any landscape design, whether as a massive unicorn-shaped focal point or an unassuming potted plant. Here are some trees that thrive as topiaries.
Arborvitae trees are a popular choice for versatile topiary designs. The evergreen leaves are shaped in flat fronds similar to a fern, but with a hearty fullness perfect for contouring. Several types of arborvitae are available, with each offering their own advantages, so pay attention to color, size, and hardiness when making your selection.
Boxwood is the quintessential choice for topiary design. It has been used for centuries in formal gardens, largely because it's easy to prune and requires minimal care. The boxwood is simple to shape into just about any design, especially rounded balls or spiral shapes. Choose shrubs for smaller designs, or trees for a bigger statement.
Yews are conifers known for durability. Yew isn’t a particularly fast-growing plant, but it can get quite large if you let it, so plan for the future and be patient. Note that the colorful berries are toxic, so avoid planting in areas where children or pets could ingest them.
4. Bay Laurel and Cherry Laurel
Laurel has been a popular topiary choice since the days of the ancient Greeks. Native to the Mediterranean, the plant played a role in the myths surrounding Apollo, and retains to this day its historic meaning as a symbol of accomplishment.
There are many types of holly suitable for backyard topiary designs. Unlike other evergreen options, holly plants feature large shiny leaves. They also grow bright red berries that are visually appealing and provide a food source for birds.
Barberry comes in a wide variety of colorful options, which makes it a desirable choice for a topiary from something other than an evergreen. You can shape barberry as a hedge, a ball, a vase, or a square and it will brighten any garden with its deep green, red, or gold foliage.
Another hardy option for yard art, privet is ubiquitous in the topiary world for good reason: this sturdy plant holds shapes extremely well. Use privet to create an entire hedge or a single, well-contoured plant. You may have seen it as a spiral, three-tiered ball, or square on a stick, but its versatility and resilience also allow for more detailed, representative sculptures.
A dense evergreen with small leaves, juniper has historical associations with protection, health and spirituality. This easy to care for conifer can be kept in a planter or grown in the yard. Give your juniper a few years to mature before beginning pruning practices. Hold off on any elaborate design work until the tree is around four feet tall.
Myrtle plants tend to be compact, so they're well suited to gardens or homes with limited space. From small, single-pot, tabletop designs to elaborately tiered shrubberies, the myrtle responds well to pruning toward the end of winter, when the stems are visible. Myrtle is a forgiving plant that will thrive in a variety of settings.
Dwarf spruce is an excellent choice for spiraling potting trees to adorn your front porch. Regular spruce can make an excellent natural barrier for your yard, as it can branch out to around 7-10 feet wide and 10-12 feet tall.