I have a new favorite hobby. I didn’t need a new hobby – I have plenty – but this one I just couldn’t resist. As I was unpacking boxes at our new home earlier this year I came across boxes that hadn’t been opened in several years/moves (if you’ve read my prior posts, you know that we’ve moved – a lot – in the last few years). I was excited to see that one of the boxes contained my metal topiary forms. I have been collecting interesting metal topiary shapes for years. In the past, I just used them in decorating on their own because I thought their sculptural forms were interesting. Now that we were settled in our new home, I decided it was time to use them for what they were intended – to hold live plants. If you are looking for metal topiary forms, some good places to look are Hobby Lobby (http://www.hobbylobby.com), save-on-crafts.com (http://www.save-on-crafts.com) and Ballard Designs (http://www.ballarddesigns.com). I have also started to look for some older ones at local antique stores.
While there are several varieties of plants that would probably work on these topiary forms, I decided to go with ivy because it is pretty easy to find at most garden centers, is inexpensive and it grows well in shade, which is important for me because I intended to put these topiaries on our porches, where they will receive little sun. (Most ivy will grow well in the sun as well.)
Luckily, I had many small flower pots and urns that I was able to use for the topiary forms. While I love vibrant colored flower pots and urns, I try to use only black ones outside so that I have a uniform look with my pots. I use about twenty pots on the patios and porches outside during the warmer months, and keeping them all one color makes it easy when I need to switch out one pot for another. A few of my smaller pots that I wanted to use were a terra-cotta color, so I spray painted them a gloss black to match the rest.
Once I had matched the size of the topiary form to the size of the pot, I pushed the topiary form a few inches into the soil and then filled the pot with a few ivy plants and more soil. I mixed varieties of ivy in some pots and not in others for a varied look. Once the plants were firmly in the soil, I took the vines and gently wrapped them around the metal form. About once a week (more in the hot Summer months) I water the ivy topiaries, continue winding their vines around the topiary form, spritz their leaves with water and remove any dead leaves. Once the topiary form is covered by the ivy, you can snip the new growth and use the cutting to grow a new plant. (See my post on starting your own plants from cuttings http://wreathonthedoor.com/category/my-garden/.)
Once the temperatures started dipping into the forties in our region, I brought my ivy topiaries inside and put them in the garage where they stay warm and receive indirect light. I check on them once a week to water, train them on the forms and remove dead leaves. I can’t wait to move them back outside once Spring is here.
I was so thrilled with how my topiaries were looking, that I decided to add some new topiary forms to my collection. The first thing I needed for this project were some metal topiary forms. I looked around at local stores and online for some new metal topiary forms, but they were all more than I was willing to spend for yet another new hobby. While I was at the garden center one day (I do tend to visit garden centers quite a bit in the warmer months), I noticed tomato cages sitting in the corner and thought they might be just the thing I was looking for to hold the ivy. A standard tomato cage is a cone-shaped metal form usually used for – guess what – holding up tomatoes as they grow. Why couldn’t I use one to train an ivy plant? Ivy plants are much lighter than a tomato plant so I knew they would be strong enough.
I bought a few of the tomato cages (they were less than five dollars) and some different varieties of ivy. Once I had the cages at home, I spray painted them lightly with flat black paint (dark green would also work well) so that the metal form would blend better with the ivy than the original silver metal color. After the paint dried, I took a small piece of dark green garden twine and tied the top of the tomato cage together. While tomato cages come in cone shapes, the metal pieces are not connected at the top to create a true cone – tying the metal pieces together completes the cone shape.
Once the cones were painted and tied, I put them in pots and firmly pushed them into the soil in the pots. Next, I put several ivy plants in the soil and gently wrapped the vines around the form. Because these forms are larger than my other forms, they will take a while to completely cover the form. But considering that they have only been growing on the forms for six months, I think they are doing pretty well. Because these are going to be tall plants given the size of the form, I am planning to put them next to our front door in the Spring. They should grow nicely on the covered front porch, where it is not always easy to grow tall container plants, many of which need direct sun.
Happy with the tomato cage topiaries, I decided to see if I could find any other inexpensive metal forms that would work as topiaries. In the wreath section of Michaels (http://www.michaels.com) I discovered inexpensive dark green round and square metal wreath forms that I thought might work. Unlike the tomato cages and actual topiary forms, these wreath forms did not have any supports to hold them in the soil, so I used small wood garden stakes (about five inches long) that have wire on the end, that I tied together and wrapped over the part of the form that was touching the soil. I staked the wreath form in about three places in each of the pots before I added the ivy plants. Once the ivies are growing well, they too will help hold the wreath forms in the pot.
I’m really looking forward to Spring this year so that I can get my topiaries outside and see how they look. I’ve also been thinking it might be time to try a different type of topiary form. I’ve been eyeing a topiary form that is in the shape of a dog. How hard can it be to grow ivy in that shape? Let me know if you’ve had good luck growing ivy topiaries.