Topiary Standard

We used Shamrock, a fast-growing ivy, for quick results.

Enlarge Image This easy project is a great centerpiece for a garden party.

While the sheared topiaries of formal gardens can take years to attain a recognizable form, tabletop versions are instantly satisfying. Made with fast-growing English ivy on a wire frame, this topiary standard is part houseplant, part living sculpture.

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1. Assemble your materials. The standard tree form is a favorite for trained-up topiary. In addition to the wire frame, you'll need a suitable container and a potted English ivy with at least five leafy stems 24 inches or longer. Ivies sold in hanging baskets often have long stems, which help to create a full look quickly.

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2. Insert the frame. Some topiary frames have a wire prong that you simply stab into the soil. Sturdier frames have extra wires to anchor the base. To insert the frame, split the root ball in half by pulling the ivy stems to the sides, creating a "part" among the stems.

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3. Once you've found a part, slice downward between stems and through the root ball with a sharp knife. Depending on the shape of the base of your topiary frame, you may need to cut the root ball into quarters.

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4. Reassemble the divided root ball around the base of the topiary frame so that the frame's "trunk" is centered. Plant in a container that is heavy (for stability) and has a drainage hole. Press the root ball firmly into the pot and add soil if needed.

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5. Choose a long stem and spiral it tightly up the trunk of the frame. Continue winding the stem through the globe at top. Clip off ivy leaves on the trunk. Repeat until you have wound four or five ivy stems in a parallel spiral up the trunk and all the wires of the globe are covered.

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6. Trim any remaining leaves from the trunk. Within a few days the ivy foliage will reorient itself to face outward. Don't remove the extra ivy stems from the pot just yet; you may need a stem to replace one damaged in training.

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