Egyptians and Romans were the first to prune plants into decorative shapes. Today, this whimsical garden pursuit attracts gardeners seeking a new challenge.
Many types of plants are well-suited to shaping, including the herb rosemary shown here, as well as hollies, ivies, and boxwood. Or try flowering plants such as lantana, fuchsia, and hydrangeas.
1. Plant a rooted cutting in a half-and-half mixture of peat and perlite.
2. Transplant it to a 3-1/2-inch pot using sterilized potting soil when it is fully rooted. Prune the side shoots to encourage vertical growth.
3. Stake the plant snugly with ties. 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.
4. 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 it from becoming rootbound.