Design ideas for topiary and hedging

Hedging and topiary can bring structure and interest to your garden and can work well alongside contemporary or traditional planting. Here we look at some more contemporary ideas from Whitburgh House in Scotland.


Keep interest in the garden going through all the seasons by introducing a few structural elements to your garden design. Hedging and topiary play an important role at Whitburgh House, near Edinburgh and can be found throughout the garden in both conventional and strikingly contemporary forms. Find four inspiring examples below. 


The sharp lines of the yew pyramid and beech hedging are softened by a ground cover of the grass Sesleria autumnalis. Although this is a grass that spreads, it does so at a usefully slow and predictable pace. It’s also tolerant of poor soils and so able to cope with some root competition.


Two semi-circles of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Flamingo’ creates an unexpected and highly innovative formal feature that contrasts beautifully with the neatly cut beech hedging. Over time these grass clumps will merge to form a solid curve and the pinkish foliage turns an orange-red in autumn.

As you enter the garden through the gateway, two lines of pleached beech (rather than the more usual lime) lead your gaze into the garden. These hedges on stilts also allow for tantalising glimpses of the vibrant planting beyond. They are underplanted with cool, blue-grey Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’.


Some of the most innovative plant sculptures are the result of using left-over plants, as was the case with the famous hedging curtains at Piet Oudolf’s own garden Hummelo. These curved waves were created from redundant box plants and used for some experimental clipping.


Photos Claire Takacs

This article was taken from a longer feature in the September 2017 issue of Gardens Illustrated.


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