In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
November, 2008
Regional Report

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Making your own boxwood topiary is holiday fun and a good value.

Trimming The Holiday Topiary

Holiday cheer is in our backyards, parks, fields, neighborhoods, and around craft tables. Gather friends, boxwood branches, small pine cones, wispy milkweed seeds and pods, dried hydrangea flowers, moss, baby's breath, holly berry clusters -- whatever catches your eye on a late autumn walk.

Round up festive ribbons, chestnuts, cranberries, silver and gold braiding, craft wire, scissors, hand pruner, glue gun, dangling turkeys/angels/pilgrims, and other doodads. Find some medium-sized terracotta clay flower pots or low decorative containers. Bet we gardeners and crafters have most of those things nearby without even going to the mall.

On the other hand, you could take a class, like the one a birthday friend and I enjoyed at Cairnwood in Bryn Athyn, Pa. on a recent Sunday afternoon. Presenter Diana Weiner and staff made Creating a Fresh Boxwood Topiary easy. They gathered materials AND precut blocks of wettable floral foam (Oasis) into pyramid shapes for us to decorate. Once Diana showed how to build our own topiary, she urged and we were inspired to make more at our leisure.

She suggested making a holiday boxwood "tree" trio -- small, medium, large sizes -- to display. Or decorate them with tea roses for a romantic or country cottage or Victorian effect. Building this type of topiary is a fun project for children too.

"It's definitely worth it to take the time to make it yourself," Diana said. A decorated, fresh boxwood topiary will cost $65 at a garden center, nursery, gift shop. If you have the boxwood branches, you'll spend about $5 to do it yourself -- for the pot, Oasis, and gewgaws, she calculated. (Workshop fee was $10 -- what a bargain!)

For a solo try or with friends, here are some of Diana's tips. Use waterproof floral tape to hold the block of green Oasis in the pot. Carefully shape the floral foam into a tree by carving the top of the block into a peak. Soak the foam till it's saturated with water by placing the pot and foam in a sink or a bucket.

Diana provided bunches of fresh-cut boxwood tips pruned 5 to 6 inches long with stems cut diagonally to easily pierce the foam. We stripped off the lower leaves so there was about an inch and a half bare stem.

At the tip-top center, we inserted a full-looking, 3-inch boxwood tip vertically -- like an angel atop the holiday tree. At the base above the pot rim, we inserted a radius of 5- to 6-inch boxwood tips horizontally. That makes an imaginary tree outline to fill in from top to bottom, using 3- to 4-inch stems around the top, then 5-inch stems mid-way. Add 6-inch stems to finish the base. Of course, we rotated the pot/foam around several times, adding tips to keep the topiary symmetrical.

For decorating, "less is more," advised Diana. Using just a few items is tasteful, makes the piece more interesting, and allows us to appreciate the topiary's dark green background. Decorate in triangles. The eye finds groups of three very pleasing.


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