This short video quickly shows you how to trim a topiary bush and also what tools to use for the job. We have used an Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly) ball on which to demonstrate; this is an excellent alternative to the usual Buxus (Box) as it doesn’t get box blight. They need trimming a couple of times a year to keep their crisp shape; if this is not done they soon lose the shape and that makes it even harder to trim them back to the correct shape. Do the first trim in late spring/early summer and the second towards the end of summer. Don’t leave the second trim too late as you don’t want it to put out a lot of soft new growth just before winter as it could get caught by an early frost, which will turn the surface brown.
We have used a pair of swivel shears but sheep shears are also really easy to use. The swivel shears can be rotated as you adjust your cutting angle, rather than you having to twist your wrist to an uncomfortable position. Don’t use hedge shears, unless you have a large piece of topiary, as these are too big and cumbersome for the intricate cutting needed. Secateurs are also not suitable as they are too small and you won’t get that nice smooth finish.
The key to getting a nice even cut is to keep standing back and looking at the plant from all angles. Just take off a little at a time, you can always go back and take off a little more. Don’t worry if you do make a mess the first time; plants grow and by the end of summer you should be able to cut it back to where it should be.
Feed it with a balanced fertiliser in spring; feeding it too late in the season will encourage it to put on a lot of soft growth which could get caught by the early frosts. Once you have mastered the technique of the simple forms you can become more adventurous and make more complicated shapes using string and canes.
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