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Topiary on Top
Words: Bethney McLennan, The Dominion Post, 21 February 2009

 

 

Home-made Ivy balls are a cost effective way to add style outside ...

Artful ways of making the most of a little in the garden
Home-made Ivy balls are a cost effective way to add style outside ...

Tough times are no excuse for skimping on style, especially in the garden. When the dirt’s dug, you’re over the sore back and blisters and the vegetables are in the ground, you can begin adding the touches which make the place uniquely yours.

 

That means using your imagination, skills you didn’t know you had and learning artful ways of making the most of a little. Rachael Matthews, of HEDGE Garden Design & Nursery, loves making topiaries.

 

She has come up with garden lollipops, a way of making a very classy specimen with a few cuttings, a pot of mix and a wire ball on a stick, and she’s happy to share her “trade secret” with us. Lollipop Ivies are a classy, long lasting, straightforward to train and, if you follow Rachael’s simple instructions, very cost effective to make at home.

 

You will need:

 

  • A topiary ball frame on a wire standard

  • A pot that neatly fits the crossbar near the base of the standard

  • An attractive container to disguise the plastic pot

  • Good container mix incorporating slow release fertiliser

  • Four cuttings of a quick growing, easy strike climber with pliable (not soft) stems 2mm-4mm wide – for instance a small leaved, variegated Ivy, Virginia Creeper/Boston Ivy, Jasmine, or Trachelospermum jasminoides. Avoid large leafed plants such as Hedera canariensis because they are too coarse and make loose, misshapen balls. As you take the cuttings, check whether they twine clockwise or anti-clockwise.

 

Steps:

 

  1. Set the frame in the pot so the bottom crossbar touched each side, to help stability. Rachael advises working on a level surface where it’s easier to avoid a drunken lean. Fill the pot with container mix, leaving space at the top for watering.

  2. Chose cuttings of even length and as long as possible so they’ll reach the ball faster. Strip off all side shoots, and the leaves, except for a few at the top, and avoid damaging the growing tip.

  3. Plant the cuttings a couple of centimetres out from the wire poli, making sure they are evenly spaced and press the soil firmly around them. The Ivy stems should be slightly apart so they have room to fill out.

  4. The tricky part: gather the cuttings in one hand and, keeping them always in the same position, wind them carefully up the pole clockwise or anti-clockwise (as you found the growing). Leave a little space between each to allow for expansion to grow.

  5. When you’ve wound up to the tips of the vines, secure the stems, just below the leaves, with foam-coasted wire, soft string or garden tape. Check the ties regularly to make sure they’re not cutting or marking the stems. Wind the Ivy stems around the ball until it is well covered.

  6. As growth reaches the ball frame, leave the new shoots to grow and train them over the wires. When the frame is well covered, trim shoots to tidy, or leave a few loose if you prefer.

  7. After-care – Liquid feed occasionally to speed up growth. Rub off any side shoots that pop out on the long stem. As the Ivy matures, the stems will fill out and hide the wire frame. Rachael prefers to leave young shoots at the bottom of the topiary to grow and tumble over the sides of the outer container. Trim shoots to tidy.

     

Plant care tips:
Plants in pots
Buy ready made:
Twisted Ivy Standards
Garden tools:
Snips & fertilisers
Garden pots:
Black & grey cubes
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