Shape Up

Plants clipped into geo­met­ric or fan­ci­ful shapes are as rel­e­vant as ever, says Franch­esca Wat­son

Condé Nast House & Garden - - KNOW HOW -


Plants trained into shapes can give per­ma­nent struc­ture to a gar­den around which to build more sea­sonal plant­ings. They act as a back­bone to softer and more ethe­real plants that may come and go in the gar­den. shaped plants can be ever­green or de­cid­u­ous, and can take many forms, from gi­ant hedges and shaped ob­jects, to more down-to-earth edg­ings or arch­ways. once es­tab­lished, most clipped plants can be eco­nom­i­cally wa­tered with a drip ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem. even the ac­tual clip­ping be­comes rou­tine and easy once mas­tered.


some of my favourite ways of in­cor­po­rat­ing clipped plants into mod­ern gar­dens have to do with green ar­chi­tec­ture. Try to think of the plants as col­umns, door­ways, screens, walls or floors. I also use more mod­ern shapes such as flat­tened pyra­mids, re­peat­ing thin col­umns, flow­ing short curves like wa­ter flow­ing over the ground or ran­domly un­du­lat­ing like a set of nat­u­ral hills and val­leys.


Hedges as Edg­ing I like to com­bine sim­ple edg­ing hedges with un­usual plant­ing such as veg­eta­bles or grasses.

Try keep­ing the hedges un­usu­ally short (less than 200mm high) or un­usu­ally wide (over 750mm) to add a con­tem­po­rary feel. Hedges along Bound­aries at the mo­ment I am plant­ing a lot of mixed hedges, a combo of up to five suit­able plants, and only clip­ping per­haps twice a year. This way the hedges are al­lowed to de­velop a slightly shaggy, nat­u­ral feel, which is also a re­sult of the dif­fer­ent na­tures of the plants.

Pil­lars I love a re­peat­ing ver­ti­cal el­e­ment lin­ing a walk­way or punc­tu­at­ing a space. In­stead of tra­di­tional pyra­mids, try sim­ple rounded or square col­umns. Very slim or very stumpy will give them an edgy mood.

But­tresses a way to or­na­ment a bor­ing wall is to add liv­ing but­tresses to it, which gives it shape and lit­tle bays for special plant­ing at the base of the wall.

Car­pets I have been do­ing quite a bit of hor­i­zon­tal plant­ing along the lines of the his­tor­i­cal parterre idea, but with a new twist in mod­ern pat­terns and us­ing leaf colour, tex­ture and vary­ing heights to cre­ate ex­tra in­ter­est. Against the House I love to clothe en­tire walls with plants, clip­ping them to sur­round doors and win­dows – this can be done with shrubs or creep­ers. It’s quite a good idea to use de­cid­u­ous plants for this, as the drop­ping of the leaves means that lit­tle beast­ies don’t over­win­ter.


al­most all small and medium sear­sia species, Maytenus procum­bens and bach­man­nii, Jas­minum mul­ti­par­ti­tum and an­gu­lare, Anas­trabe in­te­gerrima, Olea africana, Bud­dle­jas, Caris­sas, Coleone­mas, Eri­o­cephalus sp, Freylinia trop­ica, Tri­chocladus sp, Roth­man­nia glo­bosa, Go­nioma ka­massi, Hal­le­ria sp, Nuxia flori­bunda, Myr­sine africana, Ochna sp, Plum­bago, Te­coma capen­sis, Por­tu­lacaria afra, Syzy­gium pon­doense, Podocar­pus sp and even Siderox­y­lon in­erme (milk­wood), if you are tak­ing a longterm view.

Franch­esca Wat­son 082 808 1287


clock­wise the gar­dens of Mar­queyssac in Perig­ord, france; town Place gar­den; fourquar­ter gar­den at leeu es­tate, fran­schhoek

town Place gar­den in SUS­SEX, eng­land

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