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The book offers guidance on three main types of topiary: plants as sculpture, plants as architecture and patterned planting. It also includes a well-written and informative introduction that gives the enthusiast an interesting historical perspective on the growth of the art form.
Common and unusual forms of topiary are clearly explained, with simple-to-follow steps--for example, how to shape a box ball. Furthermore Joyce points out the pros and cons of using particular plants, such as the disadvantages of fast-growing privets and the graphic geometry of rare deciduous topiary like hawthorn. The range covered is extremely comprehensive and includes simple shapes on stems, animal shapes and standardised flowering or fruiting plants, as well as more complex fantasy sculptures.
The "Plants as Architecture" section includes tips on planting formal hedges and how to early train common hedging plants to create arches and decorative effects such as Yew Buttress with a Tulip Finial. For the more ambitious landscaper, there is even a dramatic Art Deco garden. Joyce provides a detailed directory of plants and shrubs, their characteristics and how they will grow. He also recommends public gardens to visit throughout Europe.
Joyce's instructions are all delicately illustrated by Laura Stoddart and are accompanied by impressive photography that makes this is an extremely attractive and useful guide to the art of topiary. --Karen Homer