How to cut a spiral topiary

Written by tami mason
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How to cut a spiral topiary
You don't need lots of space or huge trees for topiary art. (tree in the shape of bird. Garden design. Shape image by L. Shat from

Topiary art is not just for the grand gardens of stately homes; it can be a fun, attractive edition to any garden, small or large. If the foliage on your evergreen is not sufficient to create a spiral topiary, simply cut it into a simple cone shape to allow the foliage to thicken for a few months. Creating a spiral topiary looks very complicated, but it is, in fact, a fairly simple shape to achieve.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Evergreen plant (preferably with a single straight, central stem)
  • String
  • Gloves
  • Secateurs
  • Long-handled shears
  • Topiary or pruning shears

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  1. 1

    Select your plant. The best type of evergreen for topiary is one with a single, straight, central stem, with plenty of foliage and preferably cut into a cone shape first.

  2. 2

    Wind the string (masking tape also works well) around the plant in a spiral shape. It is worth examining the plant for a few moments first to see how the branches are shaped to determine the best shape and placement for the spiral. Ensure the spiral gets steadily thicker as you near the base of the plant.

  3. 3

    Start pruning at the bottom of the plant, lifting the higher branches out of the way to allow you to follow the line of the string. Remove the branches above and below the string, cutting away more as you near the top of the tree, so that the top part of the spiral is just a few inches thick. If the plant is very small, aim for just an inch or two at the top.

  4. 4

    Remove the string form the plant and use the shears to emphasise the spiral shape. Trim around the spiral, rounding the edges to create a smooth, rounded shape. Re-prune every spring.

Tips and warnings

  • It is best to create your topiary on a wet or cloudy day. Sunlight will burn the edges of the newly cut leaves. Ensure that the danger of frost has passed.
  • Use an antibacterial spray on the shears to prevent spreading disease from one plant to another.
  • If you want to take your topiary art even further, consider a round ball at the top of the spiral; simply end the spiral slightly below the top of the plant and shape the top into a ball instead.
  • Always wear both hand and eye protection.

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