Spotlight - Pearl Fryar | A Natural State

Is topiary an attempt to control nature or a form of expression using a nature-based medium? The word topiary is derived from the Greek root word, topias, meaning ornamental garden. An account by Pliny the Younger (AD 62-110) describes a garden in ancient Tuscany, near Rome, as "laid out in the form of a circus, ornamental in the middle with box, cut into numberless different figures, together with a plantation of shrubs prevented by the shears from running too high..."

Several eras of topiary followed in the footsteps of ancient Roman gardens. Like other art forms, topiary had its critics. In 1712, an English newspaper article remarked, "Our British gardeners…instead of humouring Nature, love to deviate from it as much as possible. Our trees rise in cones, globes and pyramids. We see the mark of scissors on every plant and bush."

More in this Series