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History of Garden Design
The Persian Carpet Influence
The Greeks and Romans—Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Early Herb Gardens
Formal Gardens
Early Gardening in America
Cottage Gardens and Gertrude Jekyll

Your Herb Garden
Designing a Formal Garden
Knot Gardens
Topiary
Making a Standard
Training into Shapes
Informal Gardens
Designing an Informal Garden

Sara's Garden

 

Making a Standard
Many herbs make good topiary subjects. Smaller versions of topiary are possible for pots. Standards make beautiful shapes for the patio. A "standard" is a plant trained to have a single, erect, tree-like stem. Two plants suited to shaping into standards are scented geraniums, especially P. crispum, and bay. The process is not difficult, but it does require patience. To make a bay tree ball, grow the tree 6" higher than the desired finished height, then clip back the tip. Remove the side shoots below where you want the ball to begin and trim the side shoots into the sphere down to two or three leaves. When the side shoots have formed four or five leaves, clip back again to two or three, and repeat with all shoots until you have a ball shape. Prune early and late summer, after you have the desired shape, to maintain the appearance of your tree ball.

Scented geraniums can also be trained into standards. Choose a plant with a straight stem that has never been trimmed. Plant it in a 6" clay pot. As soon as it is well rooted, insert a 24" stake into the soil ˝" away from the stem. Cut off all side branches, leaving the tip actively growing. Cut off any leaves that are growing up against the stake. Tie the stem about every inch against the stake with narrow strips of pantyhose. When the tip reaches the top of the stake, cut off the top node, which will force the stem to branch. Let shoots grow from the top four nodes. Remove all others. After new shoots are three or four nodes long, trim the tips. Continue until the diameter of the ball is about 1/3 to ˝ the height of the plant. When the plant is strong enough to support itself, cut the stake off at ground level. Possible shapes include wreaths, hearts, and espaliers.

Training into Shapes
Germander, rosemary, myrtle, and gray santolina are other herbs suitable for topiary. Myrtle can be trained to the shape of a small tree, and if you can get it to bloom at Christmas time, you will have a very sweet tree. Possible shapes include wreaths, hearts and espaliers. Espaliers (from the French word épaule meaning shoulder) are plants trained to grow on a trellis. They are especially suited to small spaces. It is a plant grown flat, like a vine, against a wall, fence, building, or a trellis. Outdoors, dwarf fruit trees such as apples, pears, and citrus fruits are commonly used. In planning an espalier, a support is necessary. Eye screws with wire pulled taut between the screws at various horizontal intervals works well. When growth begins on the plant, allow only branches growing in the right direction to remain. Clip off all others. Bend branches as they grow while they are pliable, and secure them with twine or floral tape to the wire at the appropriate height. Possible shapes are fans, candelabras, fountains, diamonds, and triangles. For an indoor espalier, use a wooden trellis stuck in a pot. Peppermint scented geranium is a good choice because of its sprawling habit.

You may have seen herbs and ivies in florist shops shaped into wreaths, hearts, and balls, especially around Christmas and Valentine's Day. Herbs especially suited to this are creeping rosemary, gray santolina, and myrtle. Myrtle can be shaped into a triangle looking like a Christmas tree, and if you can get it to flower at Christmas, you have a very sweet, live "tree. Creeping rosemary stems are easy to train around a heart or wreath shape. I have seen germander and santolina shaped into beautiful balls that are reminiscent of a globe of the world. Ivies seem to have been especially made for training into any shape. One hint: it is a good practice to prune back to a bud facing in the direction you want the plant to grow. Depending on the plant, this could be easier than attempting to bend woody branches in a new direction. Care for your topiary the same way you would any container grown plant.

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