Alternative topiary

Thinking Outside the 'Box'

Buxus (box) balls are still as popular as ever, but with concerns over box blight, what alternatives are out there? Below you will find 5 alternatives which we feel make fantastic balls and could make that much needed impact where Buxus can't be used.

Ilex crenata 'Dark Green'


Ilex crenata 'Dark Green' is a bushy, evergreen shrub which can be kept tightly clipped, lending itself well to topiary. It has small, glossy leaves around 2cm in length. Ilex 'Dark Green' is a tough, versatile plant which deals well with urban pollution and is tolerant of many conditions. It does well in full sun or partial shade. Ilex 'Dark Green' grown as a regular bush can grow up to 4m high and 3m wide.

Pittosporum tobira 'Nanum'


Pittosporum tobira 'Nanum' is the perfect alternative to traditional topiary balls. It has a maximum height and spread of 60cm so is perfect for designs which require small or medium sized topiary balls. Its bright, glossy green leaves make it an attractive addition to any garden and throughout late spring and early summer the plant is covered in small, honey scented flowers. 
Hardy to around -5, Pittosporum tobira 'Nanum' is perfect for sunny, sheltered positions and in-land coastal gardens but will need protection from hard frosts and in exposed areas. 

Taxus baccata


Taxus baccata lends itself well to being clipped and is perfect for topiary. It is an extremely tolerant plant and can thrive in dry shade, acidic soils and alkaline soils as well as in areas with significant urban pollution. Ultimately reaching 20m high (if left to grow into a tree form), it can be kept at any height without affecting its longevity. The dark green foliage can be used in many varied planting schemes and on female plants, red berries will appear in the autumn which add to its appeal. All parts of this plant are highly toxic if ingested.

Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Golf Ball'


Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Golf Ball' lends itself perfectly to topiary balls, forming a natural mound like shape. It has a maximum height and spread of 1.2m so can work as a small, medium or large topiary ball replacement. As with Pittosporum tobira 'Nanum', small, honey scented flowers appear in late spring and early summer, however the flowers on Pittosporum 'Golf Ball' are purple/brown. Its mint green foliage makes it an attractive addition to any garden. Plant in fertile, moist well drained soils.

Laurus nobilis


Laurus nobilis (Bay) is another evergreen shrub which lends itself to being clipped, making it perfect for various topiary shapes. Its luscious, aromatic, dark green foliage makes it the perfect plant to position close to pathways or in areas where the leaf colour contrasts beautifully with the background.  Laurus nobilis benefits from a sunny or partially shaded, sheltered position. If planted in exposed situations plants may suffer from wind scorching.         

August 2015