MASTERCLASS: Advanced Techniques of Topiary

For those with an existing understanding of topiary practices, this course aims to provide students with more advanced techniques in this addictive art-form!  You will go home with so much more knowledge of the process of selection, design and creativity of not just the topiary form itself, but also the garden surrounding it. Taught by Craig Sullivan, Master Topiarist of Hedgehogs Gardens, Adelaide, South Australia.

About this experience

For those with an existing understanding of topiary practices, this course aims to provide students with more advanced techniques in this addictive art-form!  Craig Sullivan of Hedgehogs Gardens based in South Australia is travelling across to Merribee from Adelaide with several pieces of topiary and 'cloud trees' in order to teach this Masterclass.  Here is the outline:

  • Selection and creativity of topiary design.
  • How to choose the right plant or tree for what you are trying to accomplish
  • Understanding the plant across a long period of time and how it may develop
  • Looking at some Before and After records of plants which document how they have developed across say a 3 year period to give you an idea of how to successfully prune your plant/tree over time
  • How to design the garden around your topiary plants - looking at your topiary plants in the context of your overall garden design.
  • Cloud Pruning Techniques - how to prune a "Cloud Tree ' - how to choose the right tree specifically for this ultimate shape, how to start the shape and what is important over time.  Craig Sullivan will demonstrate the pruning of a Cloud Tree during the class.
  • Clipping techniques.
  • Plant health - looking at the soil, fertilising requirements, air flow and the best practice to keep your plants as healthy as possible.
  • A quick overview of the history of the classical forms of topiary.
  • There will be an opportunity for Q&A throughout the Masterclass, and over lunch as well.

Lunch will be served in the historic Mayfield Cottage, overlooking the Lavender Paddock, hosted by Lucy and Richard Marshall, owners of Merribee.   Lunch will finish at 1.30pm.  You are welcome to continue wandering in the garden. 

(All participants will receive a free ticket to either Saturday 14 May or Sunday 15 May Topiary and Hedging Festival at Merribee where there will be the opportunity to again see Craig Ratcliffe, Craig Sullivan and Paul Baker in action, giving the benefit of their "Tips and Tricks" at small 15 minute sessions to the public.  There will also be buxus and other plants for sale, other gardening exhibitors including hand tools suppliers, buxus fertiliser, etc, a pizza van, and Merribee's "Daisy" Kiosk serving coffee/tea and cakes, gelati on both days.)


About Craig Sullivan:

After landscaping for 3 years, Craig Sullivan began working for a designer about 15 years ago who designed and maintained formal gardens, and his love of Topiary and Structure in gardens began there.  With a Diploma in Landscape Design and as a designer, horticulturalist and topiarist, he began Hedgehogs Gardens in 2010 in Adelaide and delivers services in high-end garden and topiary maintenance and design. He has spent some time in Japan in Ichikawamisato in Yamanashi Prefecture, staying with gardening friends, was shown many ancient traditional private gardens and aims to return in order to learn more about Pine thinning.  In the last four years, he has won several garden maintenance awards and a design award (Master Landscapers SA) and was a finalist in the Garden Design in 23021 SA Life Best of Awards.  His favourite book is “The Night Gardener” by The Fan Brothers and says “Any topiary lover would appreciate this book, as does my 5 year old daughter!."

About Paul Baker:

Paul Baker has had a very long career as a gardener - and has been at Merribee as a Gardener and Head of Hedging/Topiary for over 10 years. A true garden artisan and who is a sculptor of extraordinary shapes from buxus, Paul spends his weekends fishing and prospecting for gold. Merribee’s historic paddocks have provided some interesting finds - but sadly no gold yet!

About Lucy and Richard Marshall and Merribee:

Lucy and Richard Marshall purchased Merribee in 2000 when it was 2.5 acres of pastureland and some dilapidated farm buildings and a farm cottage. Progressively over the last 22 years they have planted garden after garden, with over 10,000 buxus plants, and 1000+ roses, including a Heritage Rose Garden with 100 different bushes from ancient, medieval, 18th, 19th and 20th century, which traces the evolution of the rose to its modern form. The buxus plants form kilometres of hedging along with the famous “Dordogne Garden” loosely based on the famous Marqueyssac Gardens in the Dordogne region in France, an Elizabeth Knot Garden, a Parterre Garden, and numerous whimsical topiarised animal shapes.

Lucy loves garden history and is never happier than when she has pieced together some botanical mystery about an ancient rose or a medieval herb! Richard has had a passionate interest in topiary forever. He is never seen without his secateurs on his hip.

Merribee’s buxus is clipped every 3 weeks for 9 months of the year and twice during winter, Merribee’s hedges and topiary are maintained by Paul Baker, Head of Hedging and Topiary, along with help from the gardening team at Merribee. More recently, he is very ably assisted by Craig Ratcliffe from Southern Cross Lawns and Gardens.

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