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Topiary Alternative

I have a planter either side of my North facing Front door - and over the past 5 years have lost 1 or both of various sets : Box Trees, Christmas Trees, Fuchsia Trees.  The volume of losses are getting rather expensive and I wondered if there was an alternative.

Artificial Topiary never looks too convincing - but I wondered if there was an alternative to placing a succession of plants out to die off.  One thought - does anyone know of a website offering structural / art to place in the planters ? 



  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,359

    Do you know why they die? I should have thought box would be quite happy there.

    Agree about the artificial stuff. The green's not very realistic to start with and doesn't improve with time.

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • My first thought was to grow a  shade tolerant clematis up an obelisk in  large tubs either side of the doorway.

    Another idea is to use a small-leaved ivy grown over a frame to create topiary.

    Or more suggestions would be holly or yew - both of those should be fine in a north-facing position, (not the variegated holly tho, and not the golden yew both of which need more sunlight).

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Are you watering them? Remember that the plants can act like an umbrella preventing water reaching the soil, so rain alone is rarely enough. Box is normally fine in north facing aspects, so I also suspect that it may be exposed (windy), or the planter too small for the size of plants. Fushia standards are not a good choice for north facing aspects as they need sun.

    If you reply about how windy and exposed the site is and pot size then we might have better ideas for you.

  • Thanks all : The planters are against the house, and the property being an old Victorian post office / shop means the planters are on the pavement. So whilst the wind does come from the north / north west, there are houses opposite to prevent any really hard winds and the hse provides shelter too. In fact being near the coast, the harsher weather blows in from the coast onto the back of the house.
    The die back isn't at the rear of the plants necessarily, so it's not a matter of not 'turning them'.
    Re the question on the dying off: The box are kept watered. Typically we see the leaves going off (dark first then patches of brown) and then whole swathes of the tree turns brown. Often 1 plant only (but not always the same side of the door way.)

    The Christmas trees lasted 3 - 4 months then started loosing their needles : however a season in the rear (south facing) has seen them bounce back with vigour (the Fuschia trees were pridictably a disaster - though beautiful for a month ! ! ).
    Did consider wooden pyramid trellis sitting on the planters, though thought with the painted wooden boxed pillars behind them (part of the house) it might look too 'structural'.

    We have wooden window boxes either side of the house and the plants within thrive.
    Someone I spoke to suggested an artificial Rosemary Spiral would be more realistic than say Box or Bay - but being so close to the pavement - people can easily inspect (and see it for what it is - even at £150 each ! )

    Many thanks for the ongoing advice - greatly appreciated.

  • Oh - and Pot size : around the size of a Large Chicken manure pellet tub : for a tree 3 ft high.   

  • Definitely new compost each time. Will have a look at a Camelia - presume would still need an obelisk on which to grow ?
  • The pots sound a bit small to me, if they're the same as the large tubs I used to get my chicken manure pellets in. And what sort of compost are you using? I prefer to use a soil-based compost in that sort of situation as it dries out less quickly, ensuring more consistent  conditions for the roots.  Also the heavier weight of soil-based compost gives more stability to large pots which might be useful in your situation.

    Having lived in a narrow street, although the front of our house was shielded from the prevailing winds, it was surprising how strong draughts and eddies of cold and drying wind whirl around the streets between houses and they can really effect some plants badly, causing browning of leaves of even quite tough plants.  

    Of course, the nature of topiary is that the leaves on the 'surface' of the topiary, being from sideshoots  are slghtly less mature and more susceptible to scorch  than those on the 'surface' of a plant that hasn't been topiarised.

    That is why I wonder whether it might be better to grow an evergreen with a naturally fastigiate form rather than one that needs to be regularly clipped to maintain its shape?  I think I'd go for a juniper, as they are tough and resistent to wind burn.

    There are several to choose from, have a look here . Go for one of the slower-growing ones image

    Although the site shown is Australian, most of the plants shown should be available in the UK..


    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 23,155

    Could it be something completely different, like a cat weeing in the pot? My cat decided that my pot with ivy "Goldheart" was a loo and the ivy eventually died. I put prickly twigs and anticat pellet and scrumpled up wire netting (looked ugly) but the wretched cat ripped it all off.

    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
  • Caz WCaz W Posts: 1,353

    I have had a Hebe Topiaria in partial shade for several years now.  As it's name suggests it looks like a topiary plant but doesn't need clipping, stays very neat and has little white flowers.  I'm not sure about a lot of shade though - hope someone might tell usimage.

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