Coat hangers anchor a tomato cage for this useful and pretty trellis.
1. Age the pot. Buy the most expensive terra-cotta pot you can afford -- it will last longer. Wearing gloves, apply white paint diluted to a milky consistency to the entire exterior of the pot using a rag. Rub it in like you're polishing a car; use inconsistent strokes for a mottled effect. Repeat process once more on pot rim.
2. Secure with hangers. Bend both coat hangers into L shapes; place in pot, leaving hook even with the eventual level of the soil. Fill pot with purchased potting soil.
3. Plant hops. Plant golden hops plants, one on each side of the pot.
4. Secure tomato cages. Position one cage directly over the other. Hold top cage and make a 1/4 turn. Using two cages instead of one makes a tighter grid for the plants to climb. Place cages wide end down in pot, catching the coat hanger hooks.
5. Hook cage in place. Use pliers to squeeze hooks shut over cage frame, pushing frame into soil. Reach through tomato cage to plant seedlings.
6. Secure finial. Secure the small topiary form at the top of the tomato cages using small-gauge wire or twine. Or, use wire or twine to bring the tomato cage spikes to a point.
7. Take care. Be sure to pinch back and wind plants around the cage so foliage fills in at the bottom before moving up. Use time-release granular fertilizer. Water daily in the summer.
Good substitutes for golden hops are ivy and Virginia creeper. Morning-glory substitutes include nasturtiums, passionflowers, and Dutchman's-pipe. For a fetching edible topiary, substitute Malabar spinach for the golden hops and scarlet runner beans for the morning-glories.
Opt for plants that grow fast but won't outgrow the container during the growing season. In this topiary, golden hops provide pyramidal architecture, while morning-glories shoot out colorful blooming runners. This plant combination works best if you plant after the first frost; expect foliage until fall.