Get the look: Topiary

Let’s all get into…Topiary. The horticultural practice of training evergreen plants into geometric-shaped oddities, or just about any other themed sculpture the mind can dream up, has fallen under the gaze of several contemporary photographers. And they’re making the all-green horticultural art look like the next logical next step for plant-loving homeowners. Got a European box hedge (Buxus sempervirens) out front? Why not clip, chop and tease it into a pineapple, elephant or large kebab of pom-poms. Bay laurel, holly, yew and privet are also species ripe for shaping. Here’s some inspiration from the streets of San Francisco, the grounds of a chateaux in France and Mexico City’s trees.

Pom-poms in San Francisco

We featured the work of photographer Kelsey McClellan here before in admiration of her eye for colour matching clothes to meals. The artist has also created a series on the topiary of San Francisco, as observed from walking through her neighbourhood of Outer Sunset. Pom-poms feature heavily and the artist told Colossal that, “most are Hollywood Junipers that have been shaped for decades by the owners.” She regularly shares her botanical observations on Instagram should you want to keep up with the changing face of topiary in California’s Golden City.

Architectural living sculpture in the Dordogne Valley

The gardens of the 17th century Château de Marqueyssac above the Dordogne Valley, were originally developed in the late 17th century by owner Bertrand Vernet de Marqueyssac. In 1861, Julien de Lavergne de Cerval inherited the property and, inspired by gardens he’d seen in Italy, spent the next 30 years transforming the grounds into an extraordinary architectural sculpture made from around 150,000 hand-clipped box plants. Photographer Philippe Jarrigeon photographed the grounds for Pin-Up magazine, giving the images something of a filmic atmosphere by capturing the odd visiting observer in the process. 

Trees for posing in, in Mexico City

When photographer Erwan Fichou won an artist residency in Mexico City a few years ago, he joined up with some of the city’s gardeners to sculpt its trees into bizarre shapes. Fichou then invited passers by into the freshly cut creations to create the photos for his bizarre series Miradors. Leaves scattered beneath the trees may seem random, but were actually artfully placed by Fichou who collected them in bags to place them for his photographs. He told the Guardian that getting in and out of the trees could be challenging. “Once, I had to cut a tree because a lady went in and was not able to get out. Most people were quite anxious about going up into the trees, but [once they were up there] they would become very relaxed. You should try it.”

Jill Macnair


Jill Macnair has worked as an interiors journalist for 13 years, contributing to titles including Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. She set up cult interiors blog My Friend’s House in 2009 with Ros Anderson and continues to run the forum daily.

The Chromologist 2019 | Farrow & Ball

The Chromologist