The Grounds Guys
Topiary trees with text: "Living sculptures: whimsical, fun & easy topiary designs"

Living Sculptures: Whimsical, Fun and Easy Topiary Designs

December marks the 25th anniversary of the iconic film "Edward Scissorhands." Tim Burton's dark comedy is about a scientist that builds an animated human being, the gentle Edward. The scientist dies before he can finish assembling Edward, though, leaving the young man with a freakish appearance accentuated by the scissor blades he has instead of hands. Edward is taken in by a loving saleswoman who discovers that Edward has an uncanny talent of designing elaborate topiaries - plants that are pruned and shaped into fun, whimsical living sculptures - using his bladed hands.

Fortunately for the rest of us, we don't need scissors for hands to design beautiful topiary shapes. Although we may not be able to make over-the-top designs like Scissorhands, there are easy shapes that we can do from the comfort of our own home or garden, like a ball, cone, spiral, pyramid or cylinder.

First, you need the right type of plant. Shrubs with small leaves and firm, dense foliage are the best for topiary design. Several plants have these attributes, but perhaps the most popular is the Boxwood. Japanese Holly has similar, Boxwood-type leaves. Laurel, Privet, Yews, Arborvitae and Alberta Spruce are good choices for taller formations.

Next, you'll need the right tools. For smaller shapes, topiary sheers or small pruning sheers, also called secateurs, are perfect. For bigger or taller plants, hedge sheers or long-handled pruning sheers work best. To help you shape your topiary into your desired design, you can implement various topiary templates. And don't forget to stay safe and wear work gloves and safety goggles!

Using your template, begin pruning the shrub into the desired shape. Remember to start slow and not to cut off too much too quickly. You can always prune more, but you can’t reattach leaves you’ve already cut off. The key to successful pruning design is to take a step back from time to time to ensure that your shape is evenly balanced and central.

For more design inspiration, check out this Pinterest board.

Have fun designing your living sculpture. And who knows, one day you might be just as talented as Edward Scissorhands!