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Q: We saw some amazing topiary examples at Disney World. Is that sort of thing possible in Cleveland?

What plants should we use? Any advice? (what exactly is topiary?)

A: Topiary is the art of pruning shrubs, hedges and trees into decorative shapes.

You can create topiaries just about anywhere with the right plants, the right technique, and a lot of patience!

I had the opportunity to get a private behind-the-scenes tour of the horticulture department at Disney World back in 1997. There I saw how they create many of these magnificent living sculptures.

They start with a steel framework stuffed with sphagnum. Into the sphagnum, small plugs of plants are inserted, usually vines such as English ivy or creeping fig.

From then on, it's training, training, training through pruning, pinning (securing twigs to the framework) and lots of watering (usually every day).

The shrub topiaries are usually done using boxwood, ilex, taxus, juniper, privet, and even pyracantha (firethorn). These shrubs grow in Cleveland, so you can use them to make your own topiary.

Again, it requires a lot of training through pruning, and a good eye to be able to sculpt the plant into a recognizable figure.

I recommend you visit the library, where you'll find books on topiary to help you get started. Enjoy!

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Tom Mugridge

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