Which conifer is best for topiary?

Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Neosnaps

Armed with clippers, snippers and, in some cases, chainsaws, topiary artists go into their gardens to create and indulge their imagination. Varieties of juniper are considered the best conifers for this art form.

Topiary Art

Trees and bushes that once stood looking normal are transformed into animals, chess pieces and geometrical shapes by topiary artists. Sometimes frames are used to help shape topiaries, but experienced artists can sculpt the plants freehand.


Junipers are a variety of bush conifers that are commonly used for structure in gardens. They take well to being shaped, whether it is to form a neatly trimmed hedge or a more complicated topiary animal.

Juniperus Communis

The most common form of juniper grows to be 10 feet tall and has a slight bluish tint to the foliage. It is thick, bushy and often used to sculpt such creatures as elephants, cats, dogs, lions and more. Topiary artists must take care they don't accidentally cut off the wrong branch because it won't grow back.

The Spartan

There are two scientific names for the Spartan variety. One is Juniperus virginiana, the other is Juniperus chinensis and they are used interchangeably. They can grow to be 20 feet high but are usually just over a yard wide. Foliage is in shades of emerald green.

  • There are two scientific names for the Spartan variety.

Instant Topiary

Gardeners who want topiary plants but who don't posses either the skill or patience to create their own tree sculptures can find already clipped topiary online. Junipers trimmed in a spiral as well as into two and three ball shapes are popular offerings.