Topiary work is the training or pruning of plant material into unnatural shapes. Practiced in gardens since the Middle Ages, it has made a comeback today. Such trained plants are at their best in a formal garden, but a fantastically shaped ivy or creeping fig lends an amusing note to an indoor garden.


       Small-leaved shrubs (more info with plant identification by leaf) such as boxwood can be clipped to produce topiary. I once had dinner at a home where the centerpiece was a rectangle of eight 3-inch pots of box (Buxus micro-phylla japonica), each plant trimmed to a tidy square.


       When given good culture, trimmed trees become bushier than those left untrimmed. Clipping out the growing points of branches forces heavy new growth. Use the same procedure in clipping a potted plant as practiced on a hedge. Choose a contour for a tree, use sharp shears and nip away a little at a time until the desired shape is produced. Start on boxwood or Euony-mus japonicus microphyllus, for they are reasonably priced and obtainable from nurserymen everywhere. Once the art of establishing the basic shape has been mastered, the gardener with a flair for the unusual may want to clip some of his small-leaved shrubs into spirals, cubes, balls, or pillars.