The key is a basket on a pole.
This unique topiary system involves as much flower arranging as down-in-the-dirt gardening. When filled with plants, it resembles an old-world topiary pruned into a charming lollipop shape. You can combine nearly any type of plant in the topiary for indoor or outdoor use.
1. Insert the pole. Choose a large pot made of terra-cotta or plastic, or any other circular container that has a drainage hole in the bottom center. Pay attention to size; make sure that the pot is large enough to accommodate the circular metal-support grid. Because the topiary system is available in a variety of sizes, match the scale to the height and width of the pot. Once the pot is selected, insert the pole in the center.
2. Add support. Slide on the support grid. The support grid anchors the pole in place and holds the upper basket steady. Slide it down the pole and into the pot (it should fit snugly), bending the bottom wires inward if necessary.
3. Position the basket on the top of the pole, and attach it by tightening the nut at the bottom of the basket.
4. Plant the pot. Fill the pot with high-quality potting soil, and add the plants of your choice. (We used impatiens and German ivy.) Leave 1 to 1-1/2 inches of space between the rim of the pot and the soil surface for easy watering.
5. Add moss. Although you can simply place a pot or hanging basket directly in the wire basket, for a more textural look, line it with sphagnum moss or coconut fiber, shown here. The liner should extend all the way up the sides of the wire basket.
6. Add the water barrier. Hanging baskets lined with natural materials can dry out quickly. To conserve water, it's a good idea to add a square of plastic at the bottom. This piece was simply cut from a black plastic garbage bag.
7. Plant the basket. You can plant the upper basket in a variety of ways. The easiest method is to purchase a hanging basket and place it, pot and all, inside the wire basket. If the plastic pot doesn't fit well, remove the plant and place it directly in the lined wire basket, adding potting soil around the edges. Another idea is to fill the wire basket with potting soil and add annuals. For a fuller look, push several holes through the liner on the sides of the basket and insert an annual in each, packing soil tightly around the roots. Water thoroughly.
For a lush look instantly, opt for hanging baskets. You can plant them in the upper basket or the bottom pot. Before placing the plant in the upper wire basket, remove the hanging plant from its pot. Position it on top of the pole and push down, piercing the root ball through the middle. (This does little damage to the plant.)
These topiaries will look great practically anywhere. Anchor a collection of your tiered creations on a front step or patio. They're pretty in pairs, flanking an entrance or path to add a slightly formal note. Or you can even plunk a topiary in a flowerbed to give it instant structure and interest.
Topiary systems look great indoors, too. They can be filled with ferns, ivy, African violets, Philodendrons, begonias, and just about any other houseplant. For a display that will last for years, try a dried flower arrangement.
Water frequently. The upper basket dries out easily because it's exposed to the most air. Moisten daily in warm weather.
For even more color in the top basket, part the vining stems of a hanging plant and tuck in some taller-growing annuals, such as Vinca, geraniums, or salvia.