How To Create a Spiral Topiary

Spiral topiaries make for an interesting focal point in the garden, whether planted directly in the ground or in a container. Unfortunately, one trip to the garden center and you'll realize that you will be paying dearly for these sculpted beauties. But armed with a little know-how and a lot of patience, you'll soon be admiring one of your own — and at a fraction of the cost!

What You Need

Materials

Cone-shaped evergreen (I used Dwarf Alberta Spruce)
Masking tape or ribbon

Tools
Pruning shears

Instructions

(Photos from left to right.)

1. Finished topiary.

2. Gather your materials and find a stable surface to rest your plant. I find it easier to work at eye level.

3. Secure the tape around the top of the tree. Wind the tape around the tree, working from top to bottom, to mark the spiral shape you want. This will be your template for pruning, so it's best to take a step back and see if the shape is the way you want. It's best to not wind the tape too close together, either. Take your pruning shears and start pruning away the branches from the tree that follow the tape's path. Prune away the foliage, right down to the tree's trunk if necessary.

4. With the spiral now defined, remove the tape and clean up the area you trimmed back, further defining the spiral shape. To round out your shape, trim off about 1/2" of the outermost growth. If you like the present height of the tree, trim off the top to prevent it from growing taller.

5. Now is where your patience comes into play. For a true defined spiral, you'll need to wait for the tree to grow fuller and the shape to fill in. The finished topiary shown was shaped over a year ago. As you gradually maintain the shape of the tree (by pruning the new leggy growth that falls outside the shape), the tree will grow denser.

Additional Notes: After pruning your topiary, protect your tree from direct sunlight for a few weeks.

(Re-edited from a post originally published on 6.17.2010 - CM)

(Images: Kimberly Watson)