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 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. If you wan more info about small-leaved shrubs, you should download Plant Spot app for free on itunes.
Other topiary designs can be fashioned by tying small-leaved vines or creepers to wire frames. Make these by bending 12-gauge wire or a wire coat hanger into a rectangle, a loop, a wreath, a bow, or the outline of a bird. Center the wire frame firmly in a pot of small-leaved ivy or creeping fig (Ficus pumila) that has grown several long branches. Or make one by setting three or four plants in one pot. Tie the branches to the frame with green thread. Keep the thread handy to tie all subsequent growth in place until the frame is entirely covered. Rotate the plant a little every day so that the design will not become lopsided. Remove all faded leaves and straggly offshoots which might ruin the artistic effect of this living ornament.
English ivy and creeping fig can be used for another, similar artistic garden project. This consists of training them to cover entirely a pyramid, ball, or cone made of inch-mesh poultry netting. I use the green-painted kind which florists stock. After molding the wire to the shape desired, fill it with moist, unmilled sphagnum moss. Secure the base in a container of good soil and plant English ivy or creeping fig all around. If the moss is kept nicely moist, the ivy or fig will quickly cover it. Hairpins can be used to secure the stems into the moss until their aerial roots take hold.