Skip to content

Designing a new topiary garden

posted in Creating gardens for my clients

Designing a new topiary garden

topiary garden Pip's Place
the existing topiary at Pip’s Place

You might recognise this garden if you know my work…this is part of the Secret Garden at Pip’s Place. Have a look here – We bought the big taxus topiary beehives in Belgium a few years ago as part of phase 1 & now we are going to add to them. Ginni asked to meet up to discuss this garden & pondered making some changes. She told me how expensive it was to maintain with mowing etc & sadly all the Ilex crenata edging (supposedly the wonder plant replacement for buxus) had died! My immediate thought was to create more of a Levens Hall style topiary garden & set about describing how it could be.

My idea was to form bound-gravel squares within each of the large lawn squares with topiary specimens within. The lawn would only be retained as a 2 metre wide path around them which would be happily mown by a robot mower who would hardly charge anything to do his job. The planted beds would be radically simplified. Ginni loved the idea so off I went back to my studio.

starting to sketch a courtyard garden with topiary
doodling initial ideas

It was a gloriously sunny day so I sat with a sketch pad on my lap in our garden room & doodled ideas whist enjoying some spring sunshine. The Secret Garden is actually very large – likely well over an acre. Part of it originally housed a tennis court so you get the idea! My design consists of three square lawns linked via wide mown pathways with another rounded rectangular lawn beside the kitchen garden. In this space we discussed a courtyard style garden with water feature. The Secret Garden would then become more of a social space which is what it really needed.

coloured drawing of new topiary courtyard
a more finished version
My drawing of the topiary garden within the secret garden
the revised design of the Secret Garden

Here in my drawing above you can see what that garden will become. There is a large terrace with a square stone pool. Within that would be a bronze bowl with 4 spouts constantly pouring water. Beside the pool would be a lounging area surrounded by 6 formally planted trees to not only look fabulous but they will also make the area feel more enclosed & intimate.

We met yesterday to visit the Solitair nursery in Belgium & select trees for the front of the house. Whilst speeding along on Eurostar I presented my ideas for this new version of the Secret Garden. Ginni loved them so we added some topiary pieces to our shopping list!

If you look at my whole plan you can see it includes chunky new clipped Osmanthus borders forming the shapes of the lawns & pathways. The big round shapes at the junctions are the existing taxus beehives & there are also new buttresses made of hedging units. Have a look at my drawing below to see what I mean…

my axonometric sketch of the parterre
my sketch showing topiary domes, beehives & buttresses for the new topiary garden

We have had problems with glis-glis (rodents – very cute but not great for your plants!) in the past chewing the taxus & causing damage, so I wasn’t sure if Ginni would want more of it. Thankfully they appear to have stopped their chewing so taxus was back on the table.

topiary domes in Antwerp
Some of the amazing taxus topiary specimens we looked at in Antwerp

We sourced all the topiary we needed from their amazing selection, including this fun taxus half standard which will now be placed at the far end as a single specimen. Rob of the Garden Design Co was with us as his team are creating the garden & actually planting these massive specimens. Here he is crouching under the taxus dome above trying to find its reference number 🙂

Visiting Solitair for me really is like the proverbial ‘child in a sweet shop’! as they have 150 hectares of absolutely incredible stock.

my sketch for the front of Pip's Place garden
Option 1

Do you remember this drawing of mine from a previous post? It is my sketch of the front of Pip’s Place imagining 2 very large multistemmed trees within 2 square lawns. These trees are the reason we went to Belgium as we wanted to see for ourselves what stock they had & select those we felt would be perfect.

Here are 2 of the contenders. We were looking for very large multistems but the tricky part was also finding a pair. Pic 1 is an Osmanthus which we all fell in love with as the scent from the flowers was divine. It was actually quite amusing as clearly there had been a lot of muck spreading around us so the air was full of a pretty strong unpleasant smell. These Osmanthus smelled so incredibly beautiful we all quite fell in love!

Our plan however had actually been to choose Amelanchiers so pic 2 is one of a pair we tagged. This was a real beauty & with its pair (yes we found a pretty good matching pair!) will sit proudly in front of Ginni’s impressive house. We so loved the Osmanthus we actually tagged 3 to go in another part of the garden.

4 hours whizzed by & soon it was time to go & catch our various trains. It was a 4 am start for me so when I got home well after midnight I was exhausted! My husband had waited up & poured me a glass of wine 🙂

I do love my job!

Until next time

Jo - my name written by Jo Alderson Phillips