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How to: clip balls

Plants clipped into balls add form and structure to the garden, and beautifully balance wilder, looser planting.

The repetition of shapes develops rhythm which holds the garden together, while the contrast with other shrub shapes adds variety and interest.

Rounded, mounded and domed shrubs look good in groups, or when striking a contrast with spiky, spreading or upright plants. They are often seen as a formal pair, indicating the entrance to a new part of the garden or pathway, or framing a focal point.


Photo - Robin Powell


Difficulty ranking

Clipping a hedge is reasonably straightforward but topiary shapes, such as spheres and cones, requires a little more dexterity. Start pruning early to ensure lateral growth from the ground and prevent bare legs. Use long-handled shears to rough-cut the shape, then tidy with secateurs.

If you find it difficult to cut the perfect circle, make a circle of galvanised wire to use as a template, which can be remade as the ball grows. The template is excellent when you want to cut several plants in uniform sizes.


4 plants to ball

Box (Buxus) is the standard choice, with English, Korean and Japanese types all popular in formal gardens. Growth is slow, so pruning is only required once or twice a year, but Buxus blight is having serious effect and if starting from scratch choose a more appropriate plant for Australian conditions.

Germander (Teucrium fruticans ‘Silver Box’) is an easy-to-grow, silver-foliaged choice. Dry-tolerant, and happy on the coast, it grows fast so frequent light-trimming is required.

Some cypress (Thuja) cultivars are practically spherical with no trimming at all, such as Thuja occidentalis ‘Woodwardii’, Thuja occidentalis ‘Tom Thumb’ and Thuja occidentalis ‘Little Teddy’,with soft green foliage that turns purple in winter. 5 stars.

Coastal rosemary (Westringia spp.) is an excellent choice for Australian gardens, and is available in different sizes and foliage tones from grey-green, through grey and silver to smokey-blue. Great near the coast.

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Author: Linda Ross