Plants for Sculptures
The use of hedge sculptures in gardens dates back thousands of years. Pruned hedges can provide order to yard design or create focal points in gardens. Gardeners also utilize their artistic skills when they prune hedges into forms of familiar shapes, objects, animals or people. The best types of shrubs and trees for ornamental hedges include several plants that grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7, 8
The most common plants used for hedge sculptures are evergreen shrubs and trees that have dense, medium to dark green foliage that gardeners can easily prune into shapes and topiaries. They include several species of boxwood (Buxus), thuja (Arborvitae), holly (Ilex) . These plants tend to fare well in full to partial sun and grow best in well-drained, moist soil. Depending on the species and cultivar, plants used for hedge sculptures range in size from a foot tall to 100 feet tall. Gardeners use shears and saws to create sculptures plus stools and ladders to reach the branches of tall trees.
Several species of common boxwood (B. sempervirens) grow tall enough to use as privacy screens, including “Green Tower” and “Graham Blandy.” Older plants can even reach up to 20 feet tall. The English holly (I. aquifolium), a tree closely associated with Christmas traditions, is a slow-growing plant that reaches a height of 40 feet and can be pruned into shapes. Thuja include evergreen trees with needle-like blue-green or dark green foliage. They grow naturally into an upright, conical shape and are often sculpted into all types of forms. Thuja occidentalis grows from 30 to 60 feet tall and some varieties have gold-colored leaves. The Thuja plicata can reach up to 100 feet tall.
The “Sufruticosa” is a dwarf boxwood that grows up to 5 feet tall displaying foliage with silver edges. Among hollies, the I. cornuta grows up to 10 feet tall and produces vibrant red berries surrounded by glossy, dark green leaves. The I. crenatia and I. glabra grow to the same height but have blackberries.
Horticulturists have developed numerous cultivars of hedge plants that grown no higher than a few feet tall. When trimmed and shaped, these plants can provide decorative borders to flowers beds and garden paths. Small boxwoods include “Vardar Valley,” growing only 2 to 3 feet tall. The “Compacta” is even smaller, only growing to 1 foot high and wide. The “Little Rascal” is a holly cultivar that grows up to 2 feet tall, with leaves that turn purple during the winter.