Garden Sense

Taming Vines With Topiary

mickey topiary
OH BOY! (Christmas @ Epcot) photo shared from creative commons on Flickr

It’s a jungle out there! Are your belligerent beauties growing wild? Out of control vines take over a woman’s sunroom!

Relax, these aren’t tabloid headlines and the plants aren’t taking over the country.

Taming philandering philodendrons and insolent ivy can be as simple as constructing totems and topiaries. You may not be as ambitious as the creator of Mickey but shaping and forming plants can be started in a few steps.

Totems: Training a vine to grow around a slab of wood or tree bark creates a totem. First, select a container large enough to hold both a slab and your plant. This container should have good drainage and be wide enough to provide stability.

Next, choose a slab three to five times taller than the container. Make sure if you use bark or a fresh slice taken from a tree that it is pest and disease free. Center your slab upright and firmly pack two to four inches of potting soil around it.

Add your vine, fill with more soil and lightly tamp. Make sure your plant is at the same level it was in the previous pot.

Attach the stems to the slab with either tape, twist ties or string until roots are established. Treat these plantings as you would any other houseplant.

Topiaries: Topiary is the art of transforming plants into beautiful living ornaments. carefully guiding selected shoots and pinching back unwanted shoots; you can sculpt various eye-catching shapes.

This is where your artistic eye comes into play. Decide what you want to have as your finished product. Maybe a wreath or a heart made of ivy would be nice.

Trailing herbs like rosemary and thyme can also make interesting subjects for topiary. You can make frames by shaping a coat hanger or heavy gauge wire. If you don’t have the time or ability to create a wire frame, check your local garden shop or nursery for ready-made frames.

Don’t be afraid to ask them to order frames, most proprietors will be happy to order them for you. Another option is to add chicken wire to your frame and fill with coconut fiber. Air roots like those on philodendrons will attach to the fiber and create a stronger anchor.

Now that you have a shape in mind, it is time to train your unruly plant. First, insert your frame and transplant the subject into the container you want to use. Fasten the vines to the frame with green florist’s wire or tie with string. Keep a close watch that these fasteners never cut into the plant.

Next, keep an eye on the growth pattern. Pinch off unwanted shoots and root them for yourself or friends. You may need to occasionally turn the planter to curb branches from growing towards the light.

Totems and topiaries can make great winter projects. In time, you will have an attractive living ornament to show off to your gardening friends!

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Cindy's Recipes and Writings

As a professional cook, I love creating exciting new recipes on the job as well as at home. Assisting in teaching low-income families how to buy, store and prepare healthy food through Penn State’s alliance with Pennsylvania’s Supercupboard Program was very rewarding. During my 11 years with the Master Gardener program, I taught horticultural therapy to assisted living patients using healthful, fr
esh grown food as a focal point. . My hands-on programs and instruction helped hundreds of children and adults learn about where their food comes from and how important fresh food is for your body.
Currently I’m a cook at a college in Pennsylvania. We prepare everything we can from scratch, including our potato chips that tout the seasoning of the day!
Of course I write about food; it's in my blood!

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