Joe Parr, Director of Horticulture for Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, Fla., specializes in creating and maintaining topiaries that wow park visitors. With more than 17 years of experience caring for topiaries, he provides helpful insight on how to help topiaries maintain their shapes.
Step 1: Quality tools
Using the right tools makes a world of difference. Parr recommends long bladed hand shears for detailing and general pruning and gas hedge shears for larger projects. Fine detailing can also be achieved with a pair of sharp scissors.
Quality tools can make your job easier and potentially will last through the duration of your career—making them a worthwhile investment.
Step 2: Tool care
Always remember to keep your tools clean and in sharp condition.
Dull blades not only make it difficult to trim the plant, they can also impact the plant’s shape.
“Cuts made from sharp clean blades heal quickly which produce fuller plants,” Parr said.
Routinely cleaning tools helps prevent the spread of disease. If not cleaned in between plants, tools used to cut an ornamental infected with fungus can transfer the disease to another plant.
Step 3: Topiary trimming
“A person needs to experiment and fail a few times to learn what the limits are to properly pruning a topiary,” Parr said.
Practice on plants at home or at a friend’s house who’s willing to let you experiment before you attempt to trim a topiary on a client’s property.
“It helps to have several good photographs of the object you are imitating to make certain that your details ring accurate and true,” Parr said.
Most modern topiaries feature steel frames that can help guide your cuts. When frames are used “the topiary keeps the original dimensions envisioned by the topiary designer,” Parr said.
He emphasized that patience and persistence are key factors in properly maintaining topiary plants.
When he’s not working at the gardens, Parr enjoys caring for his own potted, spiral topiary at home that he details in between flipping steaks on the grill.
“The art of pruning can be quite relaxing,” Parr said. “If done correctly, it can be a source of accomplishment and pride.”
Stop by your local Ewing store to get the tools and supplies you need to keep these living pieces of art thriving!