Create your own spiral topiary
Although it looks difficult, it is actually fairly easy to create and maintain a spiral topiary. Whether in the ground or in a container, a spiral topiary is a little touch of whimsy with a decidedly formal flair. You can find a 4-foot tall evergreen topiary like this for sale at nurseries and garden centers for $100 and up. But you can get the hands-on satisfaction of doing it yourself for less than half that amount. Learn how in the steps below, and then watch my friend Katie create one in the video above.
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Add style to your garden with spiral topiary
Curvy-swervy topiary is not just for formal gardens. It can transform a deck, a bed or a border from just-OK to picture-perfect without a hint of pretense. There’s something about a spiral that makes people smile. Use a pair to frame a vista or to flank a front entrance or garden gate. Planted in large terra-cotta pots, a pair can add pop to the corners of a parterre. Or dress up and complete a romantic cottage garden. Plant a line of spiral topiaries in a contemporary garden and take the space from textbook modern to something fun and personal.
Materials & Tools
- Small, conical evergreen (see list below for best types)
- Garden pruners
- Flagging tape or ribbon
Trees that work well for spiral topiary
Evergreen trees and shrubs like the dwarf Alberta spruce here make the best spiral topiaries because of their sturdy trunks and year-round color. Conically shaped trees are the easiest to clip into a spiral shape. See the list below for types of trees that work well, or check with your local garden center for the best choices for your region.
- Common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)
- Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
- Privet (Ligustrum vulgare)
- Dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca)
- Yew (Taxus baccata)
- Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)
- Japanese holly (Ilex crenata)
Topiary pruning tips
- Pruners can get sticky from sap or resin when pruning, so using wet wipes can help to keep the blades from sticking. A good soak in white vinegar will also do the trick.
- Pruning triggers new growth, so avoid pruning a month or so before your first frost date to avoid zapping tender new growth with cold temperatures.
- When new growth emerges in spring, it’s okay to start pruning the spiral topiary again to maintain the shape.