The love between humans and sculptured or clipped shrubs and trees is one that has been in existence since time immemorial. This creation of ornamental shapes – topiary – can be traced back to the ancient times when man mastered the art of creating magical structures from nature.
Topiary gardens represent the meeting point of art, nature, and man when a garden is turned into beautiful greenery that is both delightful and brings a pleasant calming effect to one’s heart. Topiary gardens give any landscape an added dimension in its thrill. The topiaries themselves take time and skill to sculpture, but when done correctly, the results will be worth every sweat.
Here are five of the world’s most fascinating topiary gardens, listed in no apparent order, that are open to the public.
Levens Hall, England
This topiary garden is located in Cumbria, England. It is probably the oldest garden that still possesses the original design that dates back to 1694. In here, there are over 100 topiary pieces still spotting their shapes designed by Guillaume Beaumont in the 17th century.
The over 100 topiaries that exist in this garden features a distinct individual clipping design, different from the others. Surprisingly, some shrubs and bushes are over 300 years old and have remained unchanged over time.
As topiary garden fashion changed in the 19th century, this one resisted that purge, continuing its glamor. The mesmerizing shapes are clipped from the tight growing and small-leaved evergreens. These include Taxus baccata, Buxus sempervirens, Japanese holly and Ilex crenata.
Although most of the pieces resemble nameless geometric shapes, they bear the look of chess pieces such as the Queen and King. Others resemble Judges Wig, Howard Lion, Great Umbrellas, Jug of Morocco, four Peacocks and Queen Elizabeth and her Maids of Honor.
Found in England’s Lake District, this garden depicts a true picture of the early love for clipped shrubs and trees. These would be worked into geometric shapes or abstract masses. In addition, beech hedges and huge yew were sculpted into the garden with the punctuation of hatted shapes tottering on single trunks.
This garden also includes a nuttery where walnuts and beechnuts grow. There is also an orchard and a bowling green that you can visit.
The Marqueyssac, France
This topiary garden in Vézac, France, offers visitors an all-encompassing and surreal landscape. Shaping up in the year 1861, the owner of the garden, Julien de Cerval, started a journey of making the place into the glamor that it is this day.
In the process, he created a garden called the “mimics of the Dordogne Valley Hills” that surrounded the location of the garden. A more stunning view is that from above, where the sculpted bushes resemble the backs of sheep that are grazing. Such an amazing look is created by the artistic handcrafting and routine grooming of more than 150,000 boxwood plants.
The work life of Julien de Cerval consisted of maneuvering beautiful paths between the “grazing sheep,” hence making for an enchanting walk. In fact, this garden has been listed as one of the ‘Jardins Remarquable’ places in France.
The gardens sit high up the Dordogne River and offer you amazing views of the villages and the river below as you wander through the mesmerizing paths. Various views await you, depending on where you start your tour from.
You can enter the gardens from the Chateau of Marqueyssac and enjoy the scenery provided through formal French styled gardening. There are lots of clipped boxes with a twist as the boxes are clipped into masses of swirls, rounds and whorls. It gives the gardens a dynamism not seen often. As you wander along, you are met with stunning vivid green toned extraordinary patterns and shapes. Add these to the lovely countryside in the backdrop; then you have a complete day out.
Drummond Castle Gardens, Scotland
This garden found in Perthshire, Scotland dates as far as 1490. It has undergone various gardening styles to date. Currently, it represents the 17th century styled Scottish garden. The topiary consists of low hedges that have been clipped and embroidered into a St. Andrew’s like a cross.
In the 1950s, the Drummond Castle gardens were terraced, redesigned and replanted, and is what is currently in place. It represents a change of sorts, although some of the original features were retained. Ancient hedges (yew) still remain as well as the beech tree that Queen Victoria planted in 1842 during her visit.
For a more garden charm, topiary trees that lean have been incorporated to give the scenery a more magical look. The trees achieve a Harry Potter-like appeal. These “tipsy” tree towers extend for a vast length of the garden, up to the distant hills.
The garden ground also has a tower house which has stood for the whole garden life, unlike a garden that has changed over the centuries. From it, visitors can have the whole garden view up to the hills found nearby.
The bad news is that only the gardens are open to the public as the castle remains closed. All in all, it should provide an ecstatic experience.
Green Animals Topiary Garden, Rhode Island
If you are looking for a topiary garden to take your children to, then this particular garden could be a good option. Children love animals and would adore the bushes clipped into the shape of animals, hence the name Green Animals garden.
Thomas Brayton purchased the seven-acre countryside estate located in Portsmouth in 1872. The estate is perched on the Narragansett Bay. After making the purchase, Brayton commissioned the design of the garden by hiring a renowned Portuguese gardener, Joseph Carreiro.
The gardener was tasked with converting the landscape into a perfect work of art, with a focus on sculpturing live vegetation. The result was the creation of about eighty topiaries in the vast garden. Birds, animals, ornamental designs and geometric figures were sculpted from yew, California privet and English boxwood.
Among the fantastic figures children look forward to in the garden are replicas of elephants, camels, and giraffes. Other figures include Don Quixote and unicorns. Apart from the animal replicas, ponds and flowers fill the landscape as green geometric shapes guide the visitors along the paths in the ground.
Ladew Topiary Gardens, Maryland
The Ladew Gardens are a 22-acre nonprofit topiary garden found in Monkton, Maryland. Harvey S. Ladew established them in the 1930s. For those who want to view the gardens, they remain open from April to October.
The grounds are divided into 15 “garden rooms,” with each room having its own color, theme or plant. What is more stunning about the gardens is their topiary, which is English inspired due to Ladew’s frequent travels to England for fox hunting.
Some of the topiaries depict riders, dogs, a fox jumping over a hedge and a fox hunt on horses. Located on the landscape are pools and fountains with trimmed and shaped hedges. With the hunting theme, you would find the topiary of bushy dogs chasing a fox to be quite eye-catching.
Featured image – The Marqueyssac, France
Barbara Herring is a contributor at TheFilix, where she writes about everything from hydroponics and aquaponics to regular garden chores. She loves troubleshooting plant problems, and when she’s not knee-deep in her garden, she’s usually skateboarding, surfing, or playing with her cat.