Monday, January 23, 2017

All About Myrtle Topiaries


Happy New-ish Year! 

2017 is my sixth year of blogging - time flies! Is there anything you'd like me to blog about? Please share your suggestions in the comments section as I'd love to know.

One topic I frequently get questions on is my myrtles. Each time I post a topiary photo here or on INSTAGRAM, everyone wants to know how I care for these fabulous but fussy houseplants with such distinctive forms. Well I'm delighted to shed some light on this personal passion of mine. In the right environment and with a bit of TLC, anyone can keep myrtles happy and healthy for years.

The variety I favor is myrtus communis compacta or dwarf myrtle, an herb with fragrant foliage when crushed. These can be grown outdoors as evergreen shrubs in warm climates. Planted as a hedge, they are a lovely way to delineate parterre beds in formal gardens. The small leaves, which are an attractive glossy dark green, make them suitable for close pruning; a reason they are popular as shaped topiaries.

As topiary houseplants in colder environments, their needs are quite different than those of hardy shrubs living outdoors in warmer climates. Before sharing how I grow these verdant gems, let's look at those currently in my shop: 
Both photos above are from last week. See the three on the French round table? They were repotted just before Thanksgiving, and are doing great. All have fresh growth, a good sign that everyone is happy, as well as plenty of moss plus weeds. For now the weeds can stay because I welcome the extra pop of greenery during these gray wintry days. When they start to overwhelm, time to yank them out to conserve nutrients for the myrtles. The velvety moss stays; its roots are not as deep or invasive. 

For scale, here I am 😊 next to one of my giant triples. Now twice their original size, this handsome pair came from the nursery of the late Allen C. Haskell, a fine horticulturalist and nurseryman with a passion for topiaries.   
A couple more photos of my collection at Tone on Tone. Since we sold our DC home with its conservatory, I've moved most of them to the shop where they are bathed in natural light all day thanks to our floor-to-ceiling picture windows. Plus the heat is kept very low at night so my "topes" do not get dried out.
Now let's talk about how to care for these green beauties:

INDOORS VS OUTDOORS
In DC, dwarf myrtle cannot live outside during winter. It must come in before any threat of a freeze, which is around early October. Once inside, avoid placing near a radiator or heat register. After all danger of a frost is over, it can go back outside for sunshine and fresh air. Keep protected from thunderstorms, heavy rain and strong winds as this top-heavy plant can easily fall over.

SUNLIGHT
Give it as much light as possible, especially indoors. Otherwise it will turn spindly and not have that coveted density. Make sure to rotate occasionally for even growth on all sides.

WATERING
Never let the myrtle dry out completely, but water accordingly. If sitting outside in full sun, especially in a porous clay pot, daily watering might be necessary. Be mindful not to have water sitting in the saucer for too long as this can cause root rot. During winter I generally water (use lukewarm, please) every other day; do so until water seeps out in the saucer, which should be reabsorbed within 3 - 5 hours. Dump out any excess water afterwards. Misting is also beneficial.

REPOTTING
Usually the topiary is already in a pot that is too small, making it somewhat root bound - that's ok for a while. Think of it as a bonsai where you want to focus its energy / growth on top rather than at the roots. However, when it absorbs water too fast and needs constant watering, time to repot. Choose a pot one size larger to keep the proportions balanced. Also, if a pot is overly spacious the plant will waste energy sending out excessive roots. 

CLIPPING
To maintain a neat, tight form, clipping or shearing should be done every two weeks from late winter to the end of summer. Monthly is recommended for the rest of the year. This also encourages denser growth because whenever a shoot / sprig is clipped, two new ones emerge to create more foliage. When not in a rush, I clip at the branch between the leaves, being careful not to cut the actual foliage which can create unsightly brown spots. But since I have so many, I tend to just shear the entire "ball." 

FERTILIZING
From late winter to early fall, I will fertilize with Miracle-Gro once a month. Fertilizing is essential to the success of container gardening where the nutrients are depleted by the plant as well as leached out with watering.   

INSECTS
Bugs are unavoidable. I spray liberally with a mild insecticidal soap on the foliage and soil. If persistent, take to your nursery for diagnosis and proper treatment.

SHEDDING
Shedding of the old leaves as new ones form is to be expected. But excessive dropping may be due to diseases, insects, changes in light and moisture levels, etc. Please consult your nursery's specialist.

And that's all! Just minutes each day dedicated to the care of a few living sculptures that add such warmth, charm and personality. I really love these civilized yet whimsical beauties, and couldn't imagine not having them

In our former home, myrtles lived amongst us in nearly every room. Enjoy these photos - many taken by photographer Helen Norman for Martha Stewart Living and Southern Living magazines.             
Here I am demonstrating how to properly clip using my favorite Japanese pruners. If any seem tipsy, steady their trunks while clipping.
Some also come up with Tom and me to Maine (below photo). Yes, they travel with us!
Additionally, I have other types of topiaries like this pair of rosemary. Unfortunately both were zapped by the frost when left outside during an unusually frigid winter.
Next to the rosemary is a "Duckfoot" miniature ivy which I had for quite a while. I gifted it to a friend last year when Tom and I were in between homes.

Speaking of homes, I have exciting news to share: Tom and I are moving, again! Not far, though...just a few blocks from our Tudor, which we'll be selling soon. Anyone interested in a move-in ready storybook Tudor with fabulous architectural details including slate roof, dramatic chimney, arched front door, interior French doors, ceiling beams, bay windows, period woodwork and hardware, etc? All the double glazed windows were recently added. We replaced the HVAC system, and installed custom shutters, built-in bookcases, lighting, staircase runner, marble floors, and more. It is located in the tree-lined neighborhood of North Woodside, Silver Spring (inside the beltway) where there are many gracious colonials, charming bungalows, and unique Tudors all from the 1920 - 30s. Please spread the word - thank YOU kindly.

Why are we moving? We found another small home (a Cotswold style Tudor) on a large lot with plenty of gardening potential 🌼. More to come!

Cheers,
Loi     

82 comments:

  1. Oh my, these are gorgeous. Thanks for the tips. I just love your photos.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Absolutely beautiful! You are the master of topiaries! Some green inside makes a huge difference, I can't do without even though it is challenging sometimes! How exciting you are moving to a bigger lot. Cant wait to see what you will so with it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Inga - Lovely to hear from you! I miss your blog so much. Hope you're well. Take care

      Delete
  3. Hello Loi, I didn't know that you had so many topiaries--usually we just see a few at a time. You claim that it is easy, but we can see the careful effort that goes into them, as in all your projects.
    --Jim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have way toooooo many :) Finding happy spots for them during winter can be challenging. Thanks for visiting, Jim.

      Delete
  4. Oh my goodness Loi - they are just SO beautiful! You really need to do a YouTube tutorial - we need to see that fancy clip work in action! Best of luck with the move my friend - I admire your ability to beautify and move on - I tend to be constantly looking for the next possible move, but the idea of actually acting on it, and the upheaval it would cause makes me chicken out and hide under the bedclothes! xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope this will be our last move :) We've renovated six houses in the last 20 years! Time for a break. Thanks, Paula. xo

      Delete
  5. Happy New Year! Your topiaries are beautiful! They add so much sculptural dignity to a room. I think I'll have to get a pair this Spring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Linda. Give it a try and share with us on your blog.

      Delete
  6. I am saving this post for future reference so I can properly care for my "Myrtle" She is special!....You definitely have a green thumb and the "ladies" love you so much! OK..moving again?..you must have found a fabulous place!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup....moving, again!! This is house number 6. And hopefully the last one, haha. Thanks, Shirley.

      Delete
  7. What a beautiful post... a visual delight. Thanks so much. It made my day!
    Lisa-Charlottesville, VA

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Lisa! Glad you enjoyed this post. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

      Delete
  8. I'm sure you will make your new home beautiful! Thank you for your beautiful post on topiaries, I didn't realize it was such an art. Thanks you for also sharing some of your home. I just love your beautiful aesthetic, so peaceful and calming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for visiting, Sarah. Lovely to have you. Cheers

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dear Loi, your topiaries are so beautiful. Thank you for your wonderful post! My husband and I are actually looking for a house to buy and we are interested in your Tudor that you mentioned might be on the market soon. The pictures that you have posted of your Tudor in this post and older posts are beautiful and marvelous. Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ali - Thanks so much! If you email me at topiaryplants@gmail.com I'll share the listing with you once it's ready. Cheers

      Delete
  11. i would love to be able to care for these lovely topiaries as you do. so peaceful and lovely. and i'm glad you are moving again because it makes me feel better about all my moving! we don't plan to sell the illinois house yet but i do like to move. the arizona one is kind of an experiment to see whether we will use it enough (translation: will we make more time for vacation?) to hang on to it. gorgeous pics here that are inspiring me to post more swedish themed stories on HELLO LOVELY! best to you as you transition and feather your new nest. xox

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michele, hopefully this one is the last! I love your new home! And so fun following your adventures on Instagram. xo

      Delete
  12. These are truly extraordinary - you have a green thumb! I was especially struck by the small pots that your giant topiaries live in. Quite amazing. I wish I had your talent (and your antiques, and your home, and.... ;) !)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Jean, for your visit and sweet words! Made my day :) xoxo

      Delete
  13. LOI! How beautiful is your world, no matter where you dwell. The light from your shoppe window is the perfect backdrop to highlight such marvelous antiques and plants. The greens must love this space! And I look forward to seeing your new tudor!Please blog on that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi friend! You and I share a passion for Tudors. I love the ones you share on Instagram - enchanting cottages!!

      Delete
  14. What a happy post Loi! Those topiaries are so healthy and green and they create just the right accent for your beautiful collection of furniture, art ,antiques etc. The information you provided has inspired me to try my luck.
    Another home and the opportunity to tastefully transform what has to be an already aesthetically pleasing place because you have great taste and vision! Cannot wait to hear more about it - an idea for another post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank YOU so much!! I look forward to sharing our new home soon. Enjoy the weekend ahead.

      Delete
  15. YOU have LANDED in my INBOX after a couple of YEARS of NOT ARRIVING!!!!!!!
    MIRACLES NEVER CEASE!
    BEAUTIFUL TOPIARIES...........
    LOVE THE BIG ONES!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Contessa! I'm thrilled to have you back :) xoxo

      Delete
  16. Hi Loi,
    I've always loved your myrtle topiaries. I appreciate the detailed care instructions. I have ivy and rosemary topiaries that are pretty easy but have yet to adventure into the world of myrtles. Maybe 2017 will be the year!
    xo,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you'll give myrtles a try, Karen. And let me know how you do. Thanks, friend.

      Delete
  17. Hi, Loi. Happy new year! Your plants are gorgeous, as are your photos. Nice to see you back in blogville. I hope you had a wonderful holiday.
    Claudia

    ReplyDelete
  18. I always love seeing your topiaries and just fascinated that you can keep them looking so beautiful. My black thumb would be buying new ones on a monthly basis. Adore your beautiful home!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Kristy :) Hugs to you and Beth!!

      Delete
  19. Loi, I'm crushing over your topiaries. They are exquisite! I hope to get some Myrtle topiaries and try my hand at this. I've got a sunporch that gets morning sun that just might be a perfect spot. At least that it what I'm hoping. I'm printing off your instructions. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds like the perfect spot, Sarah. Good luck, my friend. xo

      Delete
  20. Thank you Loi for this fabulous post. After a long day in Real Estate & Design this post welcomed me home and settled me right down with that warm feeling that all is well with the world (and me). I am very interested in your new home as we just got back at the end of the year from the Cotswolds (Chipping Campden) our 7th trip there...is it Cotswold stone? Or is it English Tudor...is it like William Morris' Kelmscott ( which I love)...can't wait to see it and what you will do with it. I have not had time to comment recently but I have been following reading, scanning and dreaming. Thank you for sharing your wonderful life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Maggie - Thanks for asking about our new home. It's a stucco cottage with stone and brick. The roof has charming scalloped slate tiles. I'll share soon. Cheers

      Delete
  21. Such energy you'al have!! Topiaries are friends. franki

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, right?? This is hopefully our last home ;-)

      Delete
  22. I love your topiaries! Can you please post about how you keep them so nicely shaped and, especially, how you keep the pairs so symmetrical? I am someone who can barely draw a circle - I wouldn't trust myself to cut spheres :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lots of practice!! Yes, I'm thinking of doing a quick video of me trimming one :)

      Delete
  23. Loi--this is so beautiful, and perfectly reflects your graceful lifestyle. I still ache to come visit you and see your lovely shop . . . Someday . . . When the newest family member is a bit bigger, I think! Congratulations on the house--I'm hoping you've found "the one" and have many happy years making it your own! Hugs--Amanda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amanda!! Love hearing from you. And seeing pics of your beautiful baby - what a joy!! Give Andrew a big hug.

      Delete
  24. How gorgeous! You know we were one of the people stalking your Instagram page and reposting your pretty pictures. We're so envious of your green thumb as ours are black... You truly are the topiary tamer!
    xxoo
    C + C

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, ladies! Always a pleasure to hear from y'all. xoxo

      Delete
  25. They are such pretty little sculptures!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They really are like sculptures! Thanks, Miranda.

      Delete
  26. You are a wealth of knowledge! Thank you for that tutorial. I feel like I might be able to do this. As for topics I'd like to see you blog about, I love your neutral interiors and especially how you add color to them. I'd love to hear how you decide where and how much color to add. Do you like to add color using art? With pillows and throws? It looks so effortless when you do it. I also love your garden posts, and look forward to what you will do in your new yard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Amy - Many thanks for your questions. Please stay tuned because I'll answer them in an upcoming post. xoxo

      Delete
  27. I am so envious! I LOVE topiaries. We had a dozen boxwood topiaries that got wiped out in a week from a bug; the boxwoods at the neighboring chateau also were ravaged, so if they couldn't keep up I doubt I could have done better. Also a rose topiary that has gotten more and more deformed over the years. You have me wanting to try again, because they are the quintessential French garden element.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your boxwood! We have the blight here, and it has wiped out many box. Merci beaucoup!

      Delete
  28. Hi Loi, Lovely post today! The topiaries are just gorgeous, so elegant. All the best on your next move, can't wait to see all that you'll do!

    ReplyDelete
  29. You had me at "gardening potential." I can't wait to see it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stay tuned on Instagram, my friend. Will post exterior pics soon. xo

      Delete
  30. It is amazing how perfect you make them!! What a beautiful accessory they make! I love all your posts!! xo

    ReplyDelete
  31. Incredible post regarding the topiaries....I second that request for the You Tube video showing you actually trimming. You are INCREDIBLE!!! Cannot wait to see your new home and the magic you work there. It will be delightful. I am staying tuned, as always!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awwww, thanks Vickie :) Appreciate you visiting AND your kind words!!

      Delete
  32. Once again your topiaries amaze me, and I so wish I had the space to fill with this much potted Beaty in my small cottage.
    Breathtaking my dear.

    Xx
    Dore

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Dore! I always enjoy hearing from you. xoxo

      Delete
  33. Loi this was such an informative post. I am not a very good indoor gardener but I am trying to be better. The question is where can we find myrtle topiaries? I can't wait to see what you do with your new home!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cindy, since the myrtles are top heavy and fragile, it's a challenge to find a source that ships. I don't know of a source near you. Good luck!

      Delete
  34. A few years ago, your blog inspired me to give myrtle topiaries a try after my ivy ones would always develop a bug problem. The myrtle topiaries are beautiful and pretty easy to care for. In the summer I keep them on my covered front porch and for the rest of the year they reside in my kitchen window. Thanks for the inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Anonymous - Thrilled to know that you've become a myrtle fan :) Thank YOU for leaving a message. I love hearing from readers. BTW, I started with a pair, and now my collection is around 40 or so. Way too many, haha

      Delete
    2. Another advantage is that my cats don't bother them. They usually attack other indoor plants and fresh cut flowers.

      Delete
  35. Loi thank you for such valuable information and so much eye candy too! Love seeing all of your beautiful topiaries and YOU, too!! I am going to check to see if they can be grown outside here in California. I need to have topiaries for each side of our garage door.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thank you for your words of wisdom here, I LOVE myrtle and i have two that look a bit weak right now so I will follow your advice and hopefully bring them back to life!!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Your post was so informative and has inspired me to go on a hunt to find some so that I may grow my own! They are so beautiful. I have quite the brown thumb when it comes to indoor plants, so hopefully they can survive with me as their plant master! I will have to go on the hunt for them this weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  38. I just love myrtle...great advices too!
    Have a lovely sunday!
    Titti

    ReplyDelete
  39. SO happy I did not miss this..as you are my myrtle hero!!!! I have four that I have had for almost a year and this is big news for me lol. I am going to give them a haircut today as I don;t think I am trimming them often enough...this was super informative and I am going to have to share this post with my readers as you are most definitely the myrtle guru!! Hope you are well......

    ReplyDelete
  40. Hi Loi,
    Just beautiful!! I love Myrtle!! I am having a very hard time finding them in my area. I live in Northern CA. Do you have any advice for me? I would be happy if they had to be shipped. Many Thanks!!! Stacey Costello

    ReplyDelete
  41. Loi, I wish I had just a fraction of your green thumb! I love myrtle topiary but generally don't have good luck with them. I have one that I have managed to keep alive since Labor Day but I'm not seeing any new growth - does new growth occur throughout the year or only seasonally? xoxo
    PS - Very exciting about your new place! Hope to see photos soon!

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hello, thank you very much for the content, it contains several special tips.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Did I miss a post on your tudor house renovation? I would love to see all that you have done to it.
    I look forward to your posts- please don't stop blogging!

    ReplyDelete
  44. Loi- how stunning these are!! I don't blame you for taking them with you during travels...I would too! I'm wondering if you might share which are your favorite trimmers, and which type of insecticidal soap you find the best for this type of plant care?

    I'm going to try my hand at growing one even though I'm the one in the family without the green thumb ;)

    ReplyDelete
  45. Website Design in AtlantaWebsite Development Websites Optimized for desktop, tablet and phone Products and Services Clearly Defined Search Engine Optimized Blog Setup. And more 404-664-5310

    ReplyDelete
  46. Website Design in AtlantaWebsite Development Websites Optimized for desktop, tablet and phone Products and Services Clearly Defined Search Engine Optimized Blog Setup. And more 404-664-5310

    ReplyDelete
  47. The blog was absolutely fantastic! Lot of great information which can be helpful in some or the other way. We are an innovative web design company in Austin offering the widest range of website development, search engine optimization & internet marketing services.

    web design austin
    web developer austin

    ReplyDelete
  48. شركة مكافحة بق الفراش بالدمام

    هل تود الاستعانة بأفضل شركات عزل الاسطح بالدمام مع الحصول علي اكبر فترة ضمان عليك بشركة النسور تقدم الشركة عروض وخصومات رائعة فقط عليك بزيارة موقعنا

    شركة عزل اسطح بالدمام

    ReplyDelete
  49. I am going on vacation for 9 days and wanted to know what yo do so she does not dry out for this time. How to keep her watered.

    ReplyDelete

Many thanks for your visit! If you have a question, please leave a comment and I will do my best to answer. Loi