Introduction to Topiary



What is topiary? Most would consider topiary as the art of clipping trees and shrubs into elaborate shapes and patterns, and they would be right. However, even shaping a hedge into a non-descript neat box or rounded shape can be considered topiary. Beyond this, the term may also be used more loosely to describe a number of garden features that rely on the close clipping and shaping of plants, such as parterres, mazes and labyrinths, and knot gardens. In short, topiary is ‘a form of decorative folk art’.[1]


[1] Dr D.G. Hessayon, The Bedside Book of the Garden (London: Expert Books, 2008), p. 316.

Topiary can be traced back to ancient Greece, where it inevitably came to the Rome and spread throughout the Empire. Throughout the centuries, it has experienced phases of both popularity and decline, often coinciding with periods of national wealth. It has always had a particular stronghold in Holland, where even today formal gardens with topiary elements abound.


Grimsthorpe has a number of topiary trees and shrubs in the gardens; most are concentrated on the South Lawn behind the Castle, however clipped hedges and trees can be seen on the herbaceous borders on the west side of the Castle, in the Kitchen Garden and in the Rose Parterre. Today they are looked after with special care by the dedicated team of garden staff and volunteers.

Today, on World Topiary Day, we celebrate the ancient art of topiary with an information trail in the Grimsthorpe gardens – look for all 6 of the QR codes, located in places where topiary can be found, to experience the small exhibition on topiary and its history. If you struggle to find them all, ask at the Gift Shop for their location. At 11.30am and 2pm, Grimsthorpe gardeners will be available on the South Lawn for more information and to answer any questions you may have.


We hope you enjoy your day at Grimsthorpe.