Creating a Simple Rosemary Topiary

A fragrant addition to your garden.


+ enlarge image Add this fragrant plant to your deck, garden, or porch.

It's easy to buy ready-trained topiary, but it's fun and satisfying to make your own. Many types of plants are well-suited to shaping, including the herb rosemary used here. It's also possible to train your own topiaries from hollies, ivies, and boxwood, or from flowering plants, such as lantana, fuchsia, and hydrangeas. (For instant gratification, simply buy nursery-grown plants in 6- or 8-inch pots, trim away the lower branches, and carefully prune upper branches until you've created a globe shape.)

Instructions:

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1. Plant a cutting. To make this simple rosemary topiary, start by planting a rooted cutting in a half-and-half mixture of peat and perlite.

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2. Pot up. Once the cutting is fully rooted, transplant it to a 3-1/2-inch pot using sterilized potting soil. Prune the side shoots slightly, which will encourage vertical growth.

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3. Stake the plant snugly with ties, and let it grow in a sunny spot for two months. Give it plenty of water. When the plant is 2 feet tall, trim off its main vertical shoot. This will stop its upward growth and encourage branching. Then, strip the bottom two-thirds of the plant of all its shoots, leaving the top one-third and its branches for shaping.

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4. Maintain. Loosen ties as the trunk grows in diameter. Turn the plant weekly so it receives even sunlight. Feed with a water-soluble fertilizer once a month during summer. Pinch off growing tips to maintain a full, dense top and encourage branching. Repot or trim the roots to prevent the topiary from becoming rootbound.

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