An emerald style topiary in a black plant pot.

How to Create an Emerald Style Topiary

Topiary adds real style to a patio or terrace, and although you can buy expensive preshaped shrubs, making your own is quite easy and very rewarding. Pot up your boxwood plant first in a large container, and then choose between an elegant spiral or go a step further and add a finial on top.

When to start: Early summer.

At their best: All year round.

Time to complete: 3 hours.

You will need: Large boxwood, Buxus sempervirens, topiary shears, clippers, wire, large container, soil-based potting mix.

Clip into rough outline

Plant up your boxwood into a large container filled with soil-based potting mix. To create a spiral shape with a ball on top, start off by roughly trimming your plant into a cone. If you want to create a ball finial on top, leave the upper portion unclipped at this stage.

Shape with topiary shears

You may be able to create the outline by eye, but if you want a guide, place a loose spiral of wire around the cone, and use shears to clip in between, cutting back to the central stem. Use clippers for woodier stems. Do not rush, and stand back regularly to check how the shape is developing.

Round off the edges

Once you have a rough spiral, start creating the final shape. Use your shears to gradually round off the edges to give the appearance of a tube winding around the central stem. To keep the shape in proportion, and to make it look solid and stable, taper the spiral so that it is thinner at the top and thicker at the base. Regularly inspect your work as you go, tweaking as necessary.

Shape the lollipop top

Either leave the spiral as it is, or trim a ball on top. When clipping a ball, try using a wire template to create a regular shape. Move the template around the ball to check that it is spherical. If you make a mistake, leave the area to regrow then try again.

Tips: Circular template

To make a circular template, wrap a piece of thick wire around something round and solid, and about the same size as the ball you wish to create; a paint can would be ideal. Then twist the ends together to keep the shape.