Top 10 Topiary Options for Formal Gardens in the UK

Topiary, the art of clipping and training plants into precise shapes and designs, can lend an extraordinary flair of sophistication to any garden. You can add topiary to any size garden, big or small. Combine your plants with a contrasting pot or plant it straight into the ground to achieve the desired look. As more UK garden enthusiasts discover the beauty and satisfaction that topiary brings, it’s important to choose plants that thrive in our climate and lend themselves to this creative form of gardening. Here are the top 10 topiary options for formal gardens in the UK, each offering unique benefits and stunning aesthetics. 

Cone Shaped Bay Laurel 350-400cm - Harrod Outdoors Archive

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An all-time favourite for topiary, Buxus is renowned for its dense, evergreen foliage, slow growth, and high tolerance to frequent pruning. It is perfect for intricate shapes and compact designs, requiring minimal maintenance once the desired shape is achieved.

English Yew is another classic choice, valued for its dense, dark green foliage and robust growth. It responds well to pruning and can be shaped into almost any form, from simple balls and cones to more complex designs.

With its aromatic leaves and attractive, glossy green foliage, Bay Laurel brings a touch of elegance and fragrance to the garden, especially when it’s intricately shaped. It grows slowly and tolerates regular pruning, making it ideal for maintaining detailed shapes.

This fast-growing conifer with its golden foliage provides a vibrant, eye-catching option for topiary. It can be shaped into a range of forms and offers excellent colour throughout the year.

Portuguese Laurel’s glossy, dark green leaves and red stems make a stunning contrast, while its hardiness and adaptability to various soil types ensure robust growth. It’s an excellent choice for creating eye-catching, sculpted hedges.

This slow-growing, compact conifer is perfect for smaller topiary designs. Its attractive golden foliage retains colour even in winter, providing year-round visual interest.

A versatile choice for topiary, Vito Leylandii grows quickly and responds well to shaping. Its deep green foliage creates lush, dense forms, perfect for hedges or standalone topiary pieces.

With its rich, bronze-red new foliage maturing to dark green, Etna Laurel adds a unique colour palette to topiary designs. It thrives in different conditions and holds shapes well, making it an adaptable option.

Ideal for adding texture and colour to topiary, Holly features glossy, spiny leaves and bright red berries. Its ability to withstand heavy pruning and its resilience in various conditions make it a superb choice for distinctive topiary forms.

Hornbeam is perfect for larger topiary structures. It has a dense, green canopy in summer that turns to a lovely copper in winter. Its hardiness and response to pruning make it a favourite for creating dramatic garden displays.


Each of these topiary options offers something unique, whether it’s vibrant colours, hardiness, or adaptability. They all share a common trait: their suitability to the UK climate and their ability to transform into living sculptures under the gardener’s hand. By choosing the right plant for your topiary project, your garden can become a dynamic art piece, offering beauty and interest all year round.