The art of topiary, as one of the oldest forms of sculpture, involves pruning and shaping the plants over the years to create three-dimensional masterpieces. If this sounds complicated to you, don’t worry. Creating your own succulent topiary is far easier than you may think. Succulents are great starter plants for creating this artistic garden gem. They need very little care, they propagate easily and most of them have compact growth habits and therefore work well for keeping the tight form.
For creating a dream succulent topiary by yourself, simply follow these few steps. With just a little work, you can have a garden gem you’ve always dreamed of.
1. Choose Plants For Your Topiary
As we said earlier, succulents are perfect plants to keep a tight form of your topiary creation. Try to choose succulents that are compact in form so they can maintain the shape you desired rather than growing tall or wide and distorting the form of your topiary. You can get cuttings from succulent-loving friends or purchase them directly from the supplier. If you choose to get potted plants, clip off the stems for your future topiary and keep the pots. Most of them will quickly grow again into a full plant. You should remove the lower leaves from your cuttings from about 1 inch (2.5 sm) of the stem. This part will go in the frame. The best way to start your topiary with healthy plants is to collect all the succulents you want few days before planting a topiary. This will allow all the cuttings and leaves to callus over.
2. Get a Frame
The most valuable qualities your frame need to have are sturdiness and enough space to plant all the cuttings you want. If you want your topiary to stant on its own, it will need to have a heavy or wide base to support the weight of the plants and planting media. You can choose from a wide range of shapes, from a simple sphere to a decorative type of wire sculptures or you can make a tree topiary with a simple cone. Either way, if you need some extra inspiration, a visit to some of your local hobby store can give you more options.
3. Prepare Your Topiary Frame
Making your topiary frame, you’ll need some simple supplies. Before you start, make sure you have long-fibered sphagnum moss or a mix of the moss and potting soil, monofilament (fishing line), pair of gloves and some light floral wire. Sphagnum moss will work well in your topiary because it’s easy to compact, holds water well and also expand to help hold cuttings and small plants in space until they root.
Now, the real fun is about to begin. Soak sphagnum moss in water until its fully saturated. Wear gloves while you’re filling your frame with the moss. If the spaces in frame are too wide for moss to stay in, you can simply use light floral wire to create a netting that will help to keep the moss in place. Keep in mind that you need to pack the moss very tight. That will help create a strong form to push against. Just put in a small amount of sphagnum moss at the time and push it in until its almost hart to touch. You shouldn’t be able to push your finger in and make an indent.
While filling your frame, don’t worry about untidy look or extra pieces of moss hanging out, as you still need to take the next step that will make your topiary look store-bought. The final step of prepping the frame is using a fishing line. Tightly wrap the frame over and over until all of the small pieces are pulled in. The fishing line will not show when a topiary is done, so make sure you use it generously.
4. Plant The Succulents
This step is where you get creative. Use a pen or pencil to make holes in sphagnum moss and plant your cuttings. You`ll notice at this point that the moss is tough to poke pen into, so you need to move quickly and push your succulent stem into an opening as soon as you move the pen. The opening will stay visible for a few seconds before moss starts to tighten back in around the stem to hold it in place. Work with your largest cuttings first and fill the space between them with the small ones.
You can use a great variety of plants to gain color and shape diversity and give your topiary some texture. Also, for a more formal look, you can use a single variety of succulent fot the entire frame. When your topiary is planted, succulents in it should be rooted in two to three weeks. Meanwhile, keep the frame in a bright area and try not to water often. As the sphagnum moss starts to dry itll turn lighter in color and that is an indicator for you to water the form.
5. Topiary Care
Your succulent topiary will grow and the spaces will fill in over the next couple of months. When it comes to watering, it`s best to shover your frame with water once a week for a couple of minutes until the moss is fully saturated. Also, you can add some fertilizer in water every other month to help succulents stay healthy. As plants start to grow, your topiary can start to look a little out of shape. In that case, simply take a pair of pruners and cut back any long plants. That way you can have cuttings to fill the gaps in the same topiary or even start a new project.