By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
Personally, I am always looking for new and exciting ways of displaying my plants.
I have numerous types of hanging baskets and planters that hold my favorite plants but when it comes to my herbs I am somewhat limited.
I have done a strawberry planter planted with herbs, a living, herbal wreath, and even a hanging basket.
But this year, I have decided to go back in time and create an herbal topiary with some of my herbs.
When it comes to herbal topiaries, there does exist two types.
The first type is referred to as a standard or herb tree. It consists of a woody-stemmed herb with a ball of leaves on top. This type of topiary does not require a frame. The second type is referred to as a multilayered topiary, which does require a frame. In this type of topiary, several stems are trained to grow up and around a wire form.
The easiest topiary to begin with is the standard. This type of topiary requires an herb that has a woody stem, such as bay, rosemary, and lemon verbena. When selecting the plant material, stay with rooted cuttings. Young plants are more adaptable to this technique.
Once you have the plant material, gather the remaining supplies. This includes a clean container, all-purpose potting soil, chopstick or wire, hand pruners or clippers, scissors and a roll of soft twine.
To create your own herbal standard topiary, starts with placing drainage material in the bottom of the container. Once this is done, push the chopstick or wire down to the bottom of the container. The part of the chopstick or wire that sticks out above the container is equal to the maximum height of the completed project. Secure the support into the container by adding soil half way up the container. Once this is done, gently remove the herb from its present container, tease the roots, and place into the new container. Fill in with soil and adjust support as needed.
After this step has been completed, you will need to remove all the plant material along the stem until you reach the level where you want to begin your ball. Once this is done, attach the stem to the support by tying it with soft twine every 1-Â½ inches.
Trim the ball into the desired shape with hand pruners or clippers. The shape can be maintained by simply pinching the shoots on the top to encourage bushy growth.
To craft the second type of topiary requires herbs that bend easily. This includes tarragon, oregano, and even mint. The second item you will need is a form. Bending a wire coat hanger into a square, heart shape or oval can create a simple form that can be used for this type of topiary. Another approach is to buy one but keep in mind that both types need to have some way of securing the form to the pot. The easiest way is to have extra wire at the end. This wire can then be pushed down into the bottom of the pot.
After the form has been created or selected, the next step is to place it in the container as above. The next step requires one to plant the herbs. You will need at least two plants that will be placed near each “leg” of the form. Once this is done, the plant can be trained to grow up the form.
Training the plant requires tying it to the form but be careful not to tie it too tight. The soft twine is only for supports. To begin this process, simply start out wrapping one stem at a time around the form. Alternating the sides as you go. Consider wrapping each stem in different directions and continue with this process until all the stems are used. Once this is completed, only tie those stems that need the support.
Regardless of which type of herbal topiary you choose to grow, you will need to follow some simple guidelines. First, always water the plants well. This will prevent leaf drop and holes in your design. Second, place your topiary in the sun and rotate it often to keep all sides growing the same amount.
So until we blog again, roses are red, violets are blue, topiaries are great for displaying what you choose. Plant them with an herbal flair, to extend the season with style and old world fashion.