Topiary or not topiary? That is the question.

While Buxus sempervirens,  or Box as it is commonly known, only needs to be clipped once or twice a year this in itself can prove an unsurmountable challenge for those less used to such intricate cutting when shaping the foliage.

Other problems with Buxus is that it is slow growing and does need regular maintenance.

If it isn’t kept out of  the heat it will turn brown and die and can also be susceptible to a fungal disease called Box blight.

Box has been extremely fashionable of late but due to the fact that it does take a while to grow and requires maintenance people are now buying plastic versions, particularly the hanging balls now prevalent in garden centres.

I am not a fan and to be honest I think these substandard versions of topiary are a bit chavvy.

However, recently it’s not just Box which is being used to create topiary swirls and cones – now Olive, Bay, Photinia Red  Robin and Ferns are all being transformed in to garden topiary. You can now even get twisted stems as I did recently when I bought a twisted Bay tree.

My love for topiary took me to two amazing examples of topiary gardens while on holiday in Whitstable in Kent last summer. The two gardens I visited were off the beaten track and a real find.

One of the gardens was formal and the other I would say more informal simply because of the contrasting regimes.

Godinton House which is 10 minutes from Ashford International has 12 acres of beautiful gardens and is worth seeing just for its famous yew hedge.

It was planted around the turn of the century by architect Sir Reginald Blomfield who was hired to update the austere house once the seat of the Toke family and redesign the gardens. Blomfield planted the yew hedge, shaped to repeat the gable form seen on the house and it really is stunning.

I picked Mount Ephraim Gardens, in the village of Hernhill near Faversham, an Edwardian garden set in 10 acre of grounds to visit after reading an extremely lengthy and bizarre review on Trip Advisor about a visit by a parent with young children. It focused bizarrely on dog excrement rather than the amazing topiary garden!

It was late September when I visited and there were no other visitors. The admission fee was given at your own discretion in an honesty box. The house is set within a working farm and the workers were too busy collecting apples and pears from the well-stocked orchards to worry about the odd visitor. I almost missed the topiary garden as it was tucked away by the toilets in the grounds of the closed café.

I think anyone will agree these images show an amazing selection of topiary designs not to be missed.

The eclectic collection offered an miscellany of birds, animals including a koala bear and First World War memorabilia (a tank and plane) in clipped yew captures the imagination

I also liked the unusual maze – ‘Mizmaze’ – which is created by using a labyrinth of tall grasses and wild flowers.

For more information on both gardens visit:

Mount Ephraim gardens: http://www.mountephraimgardens.co.uk/

Godinton House and Gardens: http://www.godinton-house-gardens.co.uk/