How To Clip Your Topiary Bush To Shape

How To Clip Your Topiary Bush To Shape

Topiary at Levens Hall, Cumbria 

Clip your topiary twice a year to keep the crisp sculptural shape

Trimming a topiary bush fills some people with absolute dread; they don’t know what to cut off and are not sure what tools to use. Hopefully this quick guide and video will give you the confidence to take the plunge and cut your little shrub. We have used an Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly) ball on which to demonstrate; this is an excellent alternative to the usual Buxus (Box) as it doesn’t get box blight. Topiary needs trimming a couple of times a year to keep their crisp shape; if this is not done they soon lose the shape and that makes it even harder to trim them back to the correct shape. Do the first trim in late spring/early summer and the second towards the end of summer. Don’t leave the second trim too late as you don’t want it to put out a lot of soft new growth just before winter as it could get caught by an early frost, which will turn the surface brown.


 We have used a pair of swivel shears but sheep shears are also really easy to use. The swivel shears can be rotated as you adjust your cutting angle, rather than you having to twist your wrist to an uncomfortable position. Don’t use hedge shears, unless you have a large piece of topiary, as these are too big and cumbersome for the intricate cutting needed. Secateurs are also not suitable as they are too small and you won’t get that nice smooth finish.

The key to getting a nice even cut is to keep standing back and looking at the plant from all angles. Before you start to cut look at it from all angles and work out exactly what you need to do. Just take off a little at a time, you can always go back and take off a little more. Don’t worry if you do make a mess the first time; plants grow and by the end of summer you should be able to cut it back to where it should be.

Feed it with a balanced fertiliser in spring; feeding it too late in the season will encourage it to put on a lot of soft growth which could get caught by the early frosts. Once you have mastered the technique of the simple forms you can become more adventurous and make more complicated shapes using string and canes.

For more gardening information just get in touch with our team in the Outdoor Plants department here in store.

Angela Slater

Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas.