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					GardendesiGns industry profile

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Twickenham-based James crebbin-bailey, of Topiary arTs, is recognised as a specialisT in sculpTural Topiary, creaTing new and innovaTive shapes, as well as classical Topiary designs such as spirals, cloud-pruned Topiary, wave hedging or Topiary peacocks.
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A couple of yeArs Ago I hAd A cAll from A lAdy who wAs not hAppy About the shApe of her topIAry. It hAd gone from beIng thIs elegAnt topIAry bIrd to A tAp. I went Along to hAve A look And we tAlked It through And I cAme up wIth A couple of sketches And thIs wAs the result.
JAmes crebbIn-bAIley

GardendesiGns industry profile Creating gardens

thIs beAutIful yew hedge Is over 200 yeArs old, 30ft hIgh, It snAkes down the 15ft wIde And 300ft long. gArden lIke An unleAshed James’ skills in creating topiary shapes have been serpent recognised by industry leaders and his work and demonstrations have
been featured in many classical exhibits displaying topiary. These include the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Hampton Court, London and on television. James’ topiary and tuition are featured in several books and he runs topiary workshops at Missenden Abbey and Copped Hall. James originally went to art school, and then decided on the more practical art of hairdressing, which enabled him to use his artistic ability. Thirty years on, having been a name in a leading west-end salon and having part owned three salons, he became more and more interested in gardening. His parents were landscape gardeners so the interest was in the blood. William Robinson (1838-1935) is quoted as saying: “topiary gardens are barbers’ gardens” but this was said in a derogatory way. Robinson wanted to see the re-emergence of the ‘cottage’ or wild garden. James knew that he had found his new vocation – being able to see shape, balance and proportion from his experience of cutting hair; Topiary Arts was born. At this time a topiary nursery was closing down near Salisbury and James had an opportunity to buy most of the plants, not yet established as topiary. Buying this stock reduced the amount of time it would have taken to grow the plants to a fully formed shape. The amount of time it takes to grow a fully grown shape is frustrating as it can take 10 years. The solution to this however, is to grow a lot of plants. James was lucky to find a walled garden to grow 1500 plants which allowed him to have topiary at every stage from embryo plants to fully grown pieces of topiary. “It also allowed me to wander past a plant for years thinking that it’s growing in an interesting way, taking an occasional snip before getting inspired to create the finished shape,” commented James.

“I constantly sketch and gain inspiration from many diverse shapes. This can be as simple as a tea-cosy – in fact the simpler the better, such as cutting a line through a ball or allowing a ball to grow up into an onion shape,” he continued. “These shapes do not work in isolation, when you are putting a display together you suddenly find that a grouping of plants is so much more than an individual specimen. When you place herbaceous

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GardendesiGns industry profile

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under planting with this group it becomes even stronger, thus creating the real garden. A couple of years ago I had a call from a lady who was not happy about the shape of her topiary. It had gone from being this elegant topiary bird to a tap,” said James. “I went along to have look and we talked it through and I came up with a couple of sketches and this was the result (see p55). This just goes to prove that even after a couple of hundred years if you are a piece of topiary you can still slim down. I am sometimes called in when contractors start ruining historic hedges by cutting them into straight lines when they should be hummocky and curvy,” said James. “This beautiful Yew hedge is over 200 years old, 30ft high, 15ft wide and 300ft long. It snakes down the garden like an unleashed serpent,” commented James with justifiable pride. “The regime for the hedge is to remove dead wood underneath the hedge which has to be done with great care as the dead wood also supports the structure of the hedge and therefore a limited amount is removed each year. This is followed by a generous application of horse manure and the hedge is cut into hummocky cloud pruned shapes which ripple and curve. You know it looks right when the sun shines down the length of the hedge and picks out the curves.” His enthusiasm is infectious. The tools James uses for cutting this hedge are: a pair of shears; a pole hedge trimmer; a Japanese orchard ladder; and a three-tonne cherry picker complete with hard hat. “You also need a rake to ‘bash off’ all the cut Yew from the face of the hedge,” he advised.

low maintenance and drought tolerant
Suitable plants for topiary are: Box (Buxus); Yew (Taxus baccata); Phillyrea latifolia; Bay (Laurus nobilis). James finds that these also work well shaped into parterres, mazes and labyrinths, in addition to their use for simple hedging, cloud pruned hedging or wave hedging. James claims that the planting of topiary has long been an element in garden design in small town gardens. In his opinion it gives an evergreen structural framework that is strong enough to stand up to the surrounding walls and buildings, as well as being low maintenance and drought tolerant – an important factor to consider with global climate change. This beautiful bow-fronted Georgian London house has a good size front garden and James is pleased with the result: “I have worked on this garden for five years, starting with a very simple design of an oval. This is in between two circles, with scalloped circles at each corner and white standard roses at each end. I planted quite small Buxus sempervirens initially but finished with elements of two Buxus spirals and a ball on a stem, which has since evolved into a spinning top. “It is important when cutting the low hedging shapes that you constantly stand back to check that the circles are circular and the ovals likewise and that the hedge is the same width all the way round. This cannot be rushed. To give privacy with an element of openness, there are yew hedges down each side,” he continued. “On the up slope side, where the garden is most overlooked, there is a pleached lime stilt hedge of Tilia ‘Green Spire’. The gap between the Yew hedge and the Tilia stops the garden being too claustrophobic. The white roses flower all summer long. They are under planted with white cyclamen that flower in the winter,” he stated. For stilt hedges and pleaching James likes to use: Hornbeam (Carpinus); Lime (Tilia); Privet (Ligustrum jonandrum); Snakebark maple; and Liquid amber (Acer); Cedar (Atlantica glauca); and Leyland Cyprus (Cupressus leylandii). As an exponent of topiary in both a modern and classical setting, James advises on all aspects of practical garden design and topiary of any size or scale, from re-shaping topiary that has lost its definition, to complete redesign. Visit Gd

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