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How to: make a spiral topiary

Photo - Yarygin/


A spiral topiary makes just as good a focal point in a small domestic garden as it does in grand gardens like the one shown here. 


Whether it’s in the ground or in a pot, a spiral is a little touch of whimsy, but with a formal edge. Consider a pair to frame a vista or guard a doorway or gate. Topiary features can be bought but we prefer the satisfaction of a hands-on approach! Start with an evergreen shrub, such as box (buxus), Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) or lillypilly (syzygium). A spiral less than a metre looks dinky so choose a plant that will give you the impact you are after. Something about two metres tall works really well. Now simply follow these steps.


1. Tie a tape or ribbon to the top of the tree and wrap it down around the tree in a spiral pattern. This ribbon will be your template. Experiment with a few different variations, altering the number of levels in the spiral and the angle. Make your final choice, ensure the spiral is evenly spaced and use bulldog clips or clothes pegs to keep the ribbon in place.

2. Cut away all the branches under the ribbon, removing them close to the trunk with sharp secateurs. Follow all the way down the ribbon and watch the spiral develop.

3. With the spiral now defined, remove the tape and clean up the area you trimmed back, further defining the shape.

4. Lightly trim the remaining branches with pruning shears, rounding the curves. You may decide to widen the spacing and to make the top narrower than the bottom to give the tree a pyramidal shape.

5. If you like the present height of the tree, trim off the top to prevent it from growing taller. Protect the tree from direct sunlight for a few weeks until the new growth hardens off.

6. The spiral will get better and better as the tree grows fuller and fills in the shape. Feed and water regularly, and prune every three months to keep it in good shape.


Text: Sandra Ross


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Author: Sandra Ross