The Art of Topiary or the Marvelous Green Sculptures
For centuries people have decorated their gardens using the art of topiary. Some of their works are kept to nowadays and are considered to be monuments of world culture.
Not many people know that the strange word “topiary” stands for the marvelous green sculptures which adorn some of the big parks and spaces in front of the “rich people” houses. The art to clip the trees, the bushes and the flowers in a special form is very old. The creation of ingenious works of art has been known for over 2000 years. The most famous and preferred ones have been the figures of people and animals. The citizens in ancient Rome practiced not only the clipping of bushes in the form of pyramids or spheres but also of entire scenes from their everyday life.
For many years the abundance of green sculptures of plants, hedges and arches was considered a proof for the wealth and social status of the owners of luxurious houses and jewelry. The special cares for the flora led to the creation of both big and small sculptures. As a basis the gardeners used the regular evergreen plants with a lot of small leaves and needles and later added shaper wire cages.
These works of park art were originally created in the courts of kings, emperors and official employees. Later the works of these aesthetes armed with clippers spread everywhere and for centuries the people created wonderful green sculptures some of which were kept till nowadays and are considered to be monuments of world culture. According to the legend the idea to create unique floral figures pertained to the gardener Calven who took care of Julius Caesar’s estates. The world famous military commander so much liked the sculptures made of trees and bushes that he ordered his estates to be decorated only in this original way. The gardener even created a bust of Julius Caesar himself out of a big bush and was lavishly rewarded for his work.
In the Roman Empire the master who was skillful of the art of topiary was as valuable as about 10 slaves but was not considered a slave. He was more like a close associate to the owner of the house whose yard he was trimming and passed on his knowledge and skills only to the most talented of his students. The trimming of bushes and trees became widespread and every gardener contributed with new and ingenious green sculptures. Some masters even founded special schools for “figural” art.
The art of topiary developed in the East where from a part of the landscape design it turned into a philosophical postulate, called “bonsai”. The owners of the houses considered it unacceptable to invite guests in their gardens if they were not trimmed by a topiary artist. Bowers, floral corridors and, of course, statues of Buddha were formed out of flowers. The Chinese works of art differed a lot from the green sculptures in the other countries.
When Peter I came to know about the marvelous bushes and trees trimmed in the forms of people and animals, he tried to impose the art of topiary in Russia. The king ordered his gardeners to explore the minutest details of that art and to understand how the ingenious works of art decorating the parks of the European statesmen were created. The Russian floral specialists spent some time abroad and on their return home they started to decorate the city of St Peterburg with topiary works of art. Unfortunately the foreign bushes and trees could not endure the cold winter and the gardeners had to look for analogous plants suitable for the local climatic conditions. They started to create green sculptures out of lime-trees, alders, hackberries, junipers and mountain ashes. They used also yews, beech-trees and cypresses. However each topiary artist decided for himself what plants to work on. Proper and regular trimming were the main requirements for the artists
who created and took care of the green sculptures.
Nowadays there are no strictly defined styles ruling the art of topiary. In most of the parks and gardens a mixture of different variants could be noticed which sometimes creates a sort of creative chaos. The artists strive the sculptures to look as natural as possible and at the same time to be ingenious and multi-coloured to attract the attention of the visitors from afar. The green sculptures may be in the form of animals and people as well as green imitations of garden furniture which, of course, cannot be used for sitting but looks spectacular.
The flora trimmed with the help of the topiary technique usually is set up in the central areas of the landscape. We should note though that all these compositions are best seen when placed in spacious areas. The green bushes and trees clipped in the form of dolphins or dinosaurs really astonish the people. Lately the art of topiary goes through a new Renaissance and becomes more and more world-famous. Even owners of small gardens are doing their best to find a place for an exquisite mini-sculpture as long as it is a topiary one