Hedges & Topiary

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A hedge is a green wall and should be kept razor perfect.  Don recommends keeping your head against the hedge so that you can see the bits that need to be cut off.

When hedges are in active growth during the warmer months of the year, Don recommends pruning every 4 weeks or so. Regular light ‘haircuts’ keep hedges tidy and prevent them getting out of hand. If you wait too long before you prune, your hedge will start to look scruffy and it will become difficult to manage. You’ll then have to do a full renovation prune, which means spending a lot of time setting up string lines and trying to work out where to cut.

Don’s tip: save work and time by pruning hedges more, rather than less.


As an ultimate piece of pruning, Don showed an example of topiary that had been done by Ick Chu in Sunshine, Victoria.

Topiary is an art form that has been rediscovered by gardeners in the last 10-15 years. It’s now quite fashionable to use buxus cones and cubes, spiralled conifers, or lilly pillys clipped into balls on sticks as focal points in the garden or to create a dramatic effect in a courtyard. If you’re thinking about having a go at topiary yourself topiarised plants can also be grown on frames which allow for plants to be placed within and trained around a pre-formed shape. There are many different shapes available from candelabras to pine tree shapes and even peacocks. Frames are available from nurseries and range in price from $17 to $70 depending on size and style.

Some experts recommend the following plants:

 Lilly pilly (Syzygium australe ‘Elite’)

Australian native lilly pillys are becoming very popular for hedging and general ornamental use. They produce flowers and attractive berries as well as interesting foliage, so many garden designers are using them as an alternative to box. Syzygium australe ‘Elite’ is a favourite. It is a tidy plant that isn’t usually troubled by lilly pilly psyllid, which causes ugly dimpling of the leaves on other lilly pillys. The downside is that ‘Elite’ is a dwarf variety, and it can take several years to train to the size and shape required.

Juniperus viginiana ‘Spartan’

Tough, vigorous and naturally dense, ‘Spartan’ is a preferred conifer for trimming. Unlike many other conifers, it doesn’t grow too big. Growth begins to slow down at about 4 metres (12′), although the plant may reach 6 metres (20′). Another advantage ‘Spartan’ has over other conifers is that it performs well in warmer areas providing it is not overwatered.


Bhutan cypress (Cupressus torulosa)

Unlike true pencil pines (Cupressus sempervirens var. stricta) which are variable in shape and form, Bhutan cypress is a reliable plant with a regular shape. It is generally used in large gardens, but clipped as a topiary its size can be limited indefinitely.

Japanese box (Buxus microphylla var. japonica)

This plant shoots very well after cutting back and lends itself to either really hard cutting or light trimming. Japanese box will grow everywhere in Australia except for the hot tropical areas.

Other suitable plants are:    Box Honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida), Ivy (Hedera spp.), and Wire vine (Muehlenbeckia spp.)

Further information

It takes many years of painstaking work before a topiary is perfectly shaped and ready for sale at a retail nursery, and this is reflected in the price. They can cost between $500 and $1000 each.