How To: Make Tabletop Topiaries

By Kelsey Savage | Updated Jan 15, 2013 5:26 PM

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How to Make Tabletop Topiaries - Versailles

Topiaries at The Gardens of Versailles. Photo:

The sculpture of plants, or topiary, has been a gardening practice for centuries. The precise designs achieved through shaping and pruning can be found all over the world, from the gardens of Versailles to the Ladew Topiary Gardens in Maryland.

If your outdoor landscape doesn’t require the addition of such a formal element, or the practice seems intimidating, why not try making a tabletop topiary for your interior?

Start with a plant. Ivies are a traditional choice, as are boxwoods, creeping fig, and myrtle. To add not only an aesthetic, but also a fragrant element to your home, then lavender, rosemary, and bay are great choices. For a flowering topiary, options include jasmine and dwarf azaleas.

How to Make Tabletop Topiaries - Angel Ivy

Angel Ivy Ring Topiaries. Photo: Art and Interior

Now determine the shape you want your tabletop topiary to take. For beginning sculptors, start 2-D. You can buy a frame or choose to wire your own. Try a heart, circle, or star design—anything with simple angles—and place your frame in a pot that has been filled with a mix of sand and potting soil.

Next, transplant the greenery while being sure to maintain the roots and water well. Weave the stems of your plant along the frame and secure them with twist ties. Establish a care regimen based on your chosen plant’s needs.

How to Make Tabletop Topiaries - Ivy and Moss

Ivy and Moss Topiary. Photo: Susa's Topiary Zoo

For 3-D designs, you can ditch the pot and go with sphagnum moss and a store-bought frame (unless you’re a whiz at wire bending). For this type of shape, the easiest plant choice is ivy or creeping fig, as both grow quickly and have flexible stems. Pack the frame with moss that’s been misted with water; make sure it’s damp. Then separate out strands of ivy and gently insert them, root first, into holes in the moss that you’ve formed with your fingers.

Over time, the plants will root within the moss and grow to fill the shape. Maintain your tabletop topiary with judicious pruning and water (whenever the topiary feels light) by soaking in a sink. Rotate occasionally to ensure consistent growth on all sides.

For more on garden design, consider:

Vaux & Olmsted’s “Other” Central Park
7 Popular Ground Covers to Enhance Any Yard
The Winter Garden: Hedge Your Bets