ADORE them or ABHOR them (to paraphrase Architectural Digest)… there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground with Topiary gardens. Some of us see Edward Scissorhand wondrous and delightful creations while others believe them to be an affectation of landscape Design. Myself, I’ve always LOVED them and the wondrous sense of Alice in Wonderland sensibility they imbue. They conjure images of the Red Queen in the garden playing croquet … and really, who DOESN’T love croquet?
Levens Hall in England boasts the world’s oldest topiary garden still in its original Design (created in 1694) and reflects the 17th-century fashion of clipping trees and shrubs into abstract geometric forms.
However, the reality is that the Topiary is a venerable horticultural Art-form that can be traced back to the writings of Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD… who, unfortunately for him, was in Pompeii that ill fated day). Literally speaking, topiary is the horticultural art of clipping evergreen plant materials into geometric patterns and shapes. The word topiarus is Latin for landscape gardener, hence since the gardeners were the only ones maintaining and creating these living sculptures, the plants they created became know as topiaries. Because of their high maintenance nature, they are most often found in formal garden designs. The plant of “choice” being the boxwood, which can be trained into animal shapes or used as hedge material.
The awe inspiring Marqueyssac garden in France… simply AMAZING… originally created in the 19th century it was transformed in 1861 by Julien De Cerval who wanted to create a dreamy topiary garden on a hill high above the Dordogne River….150,000 boxwoods later his Design was achieved.
A fun fact, the topiary was a way in which the ancient Romans would spell out the name of the family living in the villa behind, in meticulously manicured boxwood with “sculpted” forms, however the actual explosion of the Art-form of Topiary didn’t occur until the Renaissance era (14th to 17th Cent.) with the bold creations of human forms, animal forms, urns, temples and the coveted peacock design so elusive to create. Below are a few more exquisite Topiary creations as featured in the BRILLIANT Architectural Digest.
HOW Edward Scissorhands is this Garden!!! I LOVE it… the playful whimsy, the “winking” nod and the unbelievable display of gardening skill… exquisite. This eccentric garden was begun in 1941 in Santa Barbara, California, by Ganna Walska (1887–1984)
For some reason this image makes me think of the classic film Rebecca … The stunning structure is Drummond Castle (located in Scotland and initial construction began in 1490 and would go on for centuries). The garens represent a typical palatial Scottish garden from the 17th-century.
Another view of the palatial gardens of Fashion icon Valentino