Clipping box topiary. Caroline Benedict Smith Garden Design Cheshire

Buxus sempervirens – Clipping your box topiary

I love the crisp sharp lines of box topiary contrasted with the slightly uncontrolled flowing shapes of soft summer flowers ! The effect is often stunning and worth getting right.

So here are a few tips…….


Clipping box topiary amongst flowing summer flowers



The best time to prune ( in the north of England) is early June ….. Derby Day is sometimes quoted …… although it does a bit depend on how cold or warm a spring we have had. I usually settle for 2nd week in June when the fresh new foliage has hardened off a little and even push it to the end of the month if we are opening our garden in July.

Prune too early, when the new foliage is still very soft, and you are likely to get brown patches and a lot of uneven growth throughout the rest of the summer. So be patient!

The foliage will still grow slowly after a June clipping so a tidy up in late September will see it through the winter.



Box clipping is very therapeutic ! I’m sure it could be used in a ‘mindfulness’ session.


Use a sheet (here an old bed sheet cut in half) to catch the clippings, saving them falling over the other plants. It’s a pain to collect it up afterwards! The top of the ball will always grow faster than the sides, so trim the sides a little more lightly than the top. Try not to clip too severely each year as this can lead to health problems…. rather, go with the flow of this naturally very slow growing plant, allowing it a good few centimetres each year.

Box topiary clipping before and after

The heart shape behind the newly clipped box ball was originally 2 smaller box balls grown together.

It’s worth investing in some decent topiary sheers (I don’t like electric). I’ve had a pair of ‘Jakoti’ topiary hand shears (also sold for sheep shearing) for about 8 years now…..they’re one handed, easy to use and as sharp as when I first bought them. They’re about £24.

For larger topiary and some hedge clipping (which I usually leave to my husband) the Okatsune shears made by Niwaki are pricey but great quality. They have one red and one white handle.…this is so that if they are left lying around, you will see the red in full daylight, and the white at dusk!

Check out Jake Hobson’s lovely book  ‘Creative Pruning’