Design ideas with form trees

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The great-grandmother of all woody shrubs is the cut hedge. Already in antiquity gardens and smaller fields were fenced with such hedges. The aesthetics may hardly have played a role - they were important as natural barriers for wild and farm animals. The regular shape cutting was necessary so that the hedges were not too high and wide - after all, the acreage for fruits, vegetables and herbs should be as large and sunny.

The great period of the artfully cut form trees began at the beginning of the 17th century with the Baroque era. Many magnificent gardens such as the Gardens of Versailles were built during this period. Stylistic features were ornamental plantings and figures of boxwood and yew, which were regularly cut into shape by an army of gardeners. Incidentally, this still happens today with the help of large wooden templates, which allow an exact shaping.

Rooster from book

Topiaries call Englishmen the art of sculpting sculptures from boxwood and other small-leaved, cut-friendly shrubs. For detailed figures like this cock, the young plant is first preformed with a wire template

With the English landscape garden, a new garden style was introduced in the 18th century, which idealized the beauty of nature. The artificially kept plants had no space here or were only planted on small areas near the building. In peasant and monastery gardens, however, the boxwood edging, for example, continued to be the preferred form of bedding boundary.
Both have their place in today's gardens - and complement each other in an ideal way! This is particularly evident in autumn and winter, because now the distinctive shapes of cut evergreen shrubs come to the fore, while most flowering shrubs and perennials lose their foliage or immediately retire completely into the ground. For a garden, which should offer something to the eye all year around, cut borders as well as cones, balls, cuboids or filigree figures are indispensable. But even in summer, when the perennials and ornamental grasses are in full bloom, the dark green forms bring peace to the bed and at the same time create a beautiful contrast to the exuberant flowering of flowers.

Green sculpurs need two shape cuts per year

Rear section with electric pruner

Normal hedges can be formed with an electric hedge trimmer saving time and effort

If you plant trees, you also have to take the time to care for them. Two cuts per year - end of June and August - are the minimum needed to keep boxwood, yew and other shrubs in shape. The more complex the shape, the more often one grabs the gap. Even several mold cuts a year are no problem with good nutrient supply. It's best to fertilize each spring with compost and a few horn shavings. Avoid cutbacks in hot, dry weather: If the older leaves are no longer shaded by the young shoot, they will dry slightly.

Scissors for the shape cut

Cut boxwood ball with scissors

Cut back the book with sheep shear

A hedge trimmer with short blades (left) is suitable for cutting bookballs. The sheep shear (right) has been used for centuries for the shape cutting. The spring at the handle end pulls the blades apart (right)

Good tools are important for a light, clean cut - and therefore, of course, that you will not lose the fun of caring for your topiary. Manual, electric or battery operated scissors are available in different sizes. Basically, the longer the blade or the cutter bar is, the faster it can work with the device, the less detailed but may also be the figure. Thus, the electric hedge trimmer is only suitable for cutting hedges, cuboids and other figures with flat surfaces. For simple, rounded figures such as balls or cones, use a cordless scissors with a short knife bar or a small hand-held hedge trimmer with short blades.
A very old cutter, for detailed figures until today but still the first choice, is the Schafschere. At some point, resourceful gardeners decided that the Schäfer tool was also ideal for forming books and other woody plants. Since the spring is at the handle end, you do not develop so much power when cutting, but the blades can open and close quickly and thus work very ergonomically. The weight distribution is cheaper than with a normal secateurs.

Create a knot garden yourself

Create a knot garden

To plant a knot garden, you should buy at least three-year-old potted plants, so that they grow together quickly to a continuous ornament

Draw the desired ornament for your knot garden first in a square grid on paper to scale and then put on the prepared surface with a planting string an identical grid. The soil is previously loosened and thoroughly cleared of weeds. Transfer the pattern of the plantation with sand to the surface and lay out the plants - classically edging book - at intervals of 1 to 15 centimeters. Immediately after planting the book is trimmed for the first time. The knot look is created by keeping one of the two intersecting plant rows lower at intersections.

Alternatives to boxwood

Many hobby gardeners bid farewell to their evergreen darling. The reason: boxwood throats and instinctual dying make life difficult for the shrub. Although the caterpillars and the leaf fungus can be fought, but the effort is immense. Unfortunately, the selection of alternative plants is manageable. In the following picture gallery we present you four alternatives to the classical border tree.

Yew as a ball

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Design ideas with form trees: design

Design ideas with form trees: garden

Design ideas with form trees: boxwood


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Alternatives to boxwood

Design ideas with form trees: ideas

The best alternative is the yew. For larger balls and other, not too detailed forms, the robust yew (in the photo behind) is very good. For low borders or smaller figures, for example, one can choose the low-growing, densely crowned variety 'Densiformis' (Taxus x media)

Design ideas with form trees: boxwood

Visually, the Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) comes closest to the evergreen problem child with the varieties 'Convexa' and 'Stokes', but is not very adaptable to location and soil. Humus-rich, sandy soil and a half-shady location are prerequisites for good prosperity

Design ideas with form trees: design

Less demanding is the evergreen honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida 'Maigrün'). It has the disadvantage that poorly illuminated branch lots easily kink

Design ideas with form trees: form

If you do not want to do without books, you can try your luck with the small-leaved boxwood (Buxus microphylla), because experiments in the USA have shown that varieties such as 'Faulkner' are less prone to die

Yew as a ball

Japanese holly (Ilex crenata)

Lonicera nitida 'May green'

Buxus microphylla

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