Restoration. Rejuvenation. Fresh start. It’s time to get back in shape. It’s time to get pruning!

Wed., Apr. 21, 2021

By Caroline Tait, Vice President of Horticulture and Collections

This spring sees the Sears Swetland Rose Garden, Topiary Garden and Alleé at Cleveland Botanical Garden start their transformation journeys. These garden spaces are connected visually and physically by multiple examples of yew (Taxus sp. and cultivars). From formal low hedging, to cloud-like masses, from a 10ft+ wide hedge to upright candles and columns, and largest of all, an informal serpentine hedge running the length of Topiary.

Taxus and Buxus (boxwood), are the most commonly used genera for sharp clipping and topiary work. Clean lines and evergreen boundaries in the Rose Garden are constants which allow the colorful bounty held within to take centerstage. In Topiary, the space between shapes becomes as important, allowing tricks of lights and shadow through the day.

Yew is particularly helpful as a hedging and topiary plant as it is one of the few conifer types which can be cut back deep into brown wood which then shoots again. Of course, the better plan is to attend fastidiously to your yew hedging so that renovation is not required. However, sometimes needing three clips a year to maintain form, its easy to see how yew topiary and scale can be lost.

Be they formal as in the rose garden or informal and playful in Topiary, these intentional, imposing shapes are the essential skeleton on which everything else hangs. Without good structure and posture we struggle. You may have heard something similar at the gym! Another life lesson in nature.

We were very lucky to have good rainfall after both intense clipping sessions allowing moisture to get to the root. A general feed will follow to support the plants as they push new growth. Follow along in photos to see how the project is coming along. This calls for patience so we’ll check back in with you in a few weeks to see progress.

Caroline Tait

Caroline Tait

Vice President of Horticulture and Collections

Caroline began her career propagating perennials at Coton Manor Gardens in Northamptonshire, England, voted the UK’s favorite garden in 2019. Designing gardens for shows and clients took her all over the the UK, until 2018 when she was selected from a global pool of candidates for the year-long residential Fellows Leadership Program at Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


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