MASTERCLASS: Fundamentals of Topiary & Hedging

Craig Ratcliffe, Master Topiarist from Southern Cross Lawns and Gardens will teach you everything you need to know to clip a hedge or simple piece of topiary, such as a buxus ball, with confidence. You will go home with a new-found set of skills based on solid knowledge and a detailed understanding of equipment and technique.

About this experience

After a delicious and healthy lunch in the historic Mayfield Cottage overlooking the Lavender Paddock and hosted by Lucy and Richard Marshall, owners of Merribee from 12.30pm, the Fundamentals of Topiary and Hedging Masterclass will commence at 1.30pm with Craig Ratcliffe, Master Topiarist from Southern Cross Lawns and Gardens. 

You will cover: 

  • The differences in hedging tools - both hand tools and power tools (there are just so many available on the market it can often be quite confusing to know the best one to meet your own personal requirements). 
  • How to maintain the tools correctly - how to clean and sharpen them.
  • How to use topiary shears and power tools safely and correctly.
  • How to shape a hedge, and to give it a perfect line - learning all the tricks of the trade!
  • How to spot problems in a hedge and how to fix them.
  • Plant health - looking at the soil, fertilising requirements, air flow and the best practice to keep your plants as healthy as possible.
  • The art of using a string line, and how also to not use one!
  • How to ensure you are getting the shape you are wanting - the top and all the sides. 
  • The principles behind clipping - how much is too much?  How much is just enough?
  • How to shape and trim a buxus ball.  You will see several buxus balls being demonstrated.
  • How to clip an integrated shape within another hedge shape - a ball within a cube, for example, and many other demonstrations.
  • There will be an opportunity for Q&A throughout the entire session.

You will also have the opportunity to observe Paul Baker, Master of Hedging at Merribee prune the Dordogne Garden, and shape various topiary animals. 

The formal tuition will conclude at 4.30pm and the gardens will close at 5pm with sunset.  

(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 Ratcliffe:

Craig Ratcliffe has a total of 20 years’ professional gardening experience and has successfully run Southern Cross Lawns and Gardens since 2007, as a Topiarist and Hedging Specialist. In late 2021, he relocated from Sydney to Orange, NSW, where he has already established a very busy and happy group of hedging and topiary clients!  He is starting the process of creating a formal garden and house for his young family on pastureland.  Every month or so, he assists Merribee’s hedging team.


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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