ger topiary

My friend, my rose scented geranium topiary has died!! This is a pic of her back in 2009. I pruned and shaped her from a seedling. You can’t imagine how beautiful [and huge] she was three-years-later! Right about now she would be blooming…and, oh, how I would welcome those little pink flowers in the middle of winter! [sigh]

A couple of months ago, temperatures dipped, and my houseplants were still ‘vacationing’ out in the workshop! She got frost-bite…really bad! I was devastated. I nursed her along…but, she finally gave-up, and I decided to let her go! Sad day indeed! Thankfully, I have one of her gangly offsprings.

My dear friends, plants are like people. How many friend-ships have faltered due to ‘neglect’?

I’m experiencing withdrawal…

The past week or so of unseasonably warm weather beckons me outdoors… to a multitude of gardening tasks. Primarily: clean-up, raking, weeding, turning compost, transplanting/pruning, and on and on! I’m exhausted just thinking about it – and the old bones are feeling it!

That leaves little time for creating (and I desperately need to create!). Well, besides creating gardening plans, that is! I try to keep a level head, focused, prioritizing a To-Do list and most importantly, taking little bites! After all, it’s the tortoise that won the race! For me, it’s a matter of perspective… knowing that there will ALWAYS be something to-do on a list somewhere!!

In the meantime, I managed to make a little Frenchy dairy goat – in all fairness – long overdue, considering all the sheepies that are foremost on my mind!

She stands proudly looking about curiously, as most goats do!

You could make your very own dairy goat ‘topiary’ too!

How-To: First, draw a dairy goat (had to be recently freshened, that is, have an udder – heehee) on a piece of muslin – remember, front & back! If you’re not great at ‘drawing’, there’s many goat diagrams available in goat books, etc that you could use for a pattern/trace. Next, I sewed the two pieces together and stuffed it (leave an inch or so opening to ‘stuff’) with fiberfil (and some dried fragrant herbs?). I then painted my goat with acrylic paint – here’s where you can get creative… because there are many colors/patterns of dairy goats… or, paint it to resemble your own goat!

I applied a fine coat of mod podge & tinted wax, and used a wooden dowel for a base (but you could use a natural tree branch too). I wrapped my dowel in a spring green butcher’s twine, but you could paint it, leave it natural, or wrap in ribbon, yarn, etc.

For the base, I recycled a vintage child’s alphabet block by drilling a hole in the top to accept the dowel. Any ‘base’ would do – be creative! I stamped the letter ‘C’ for chevre (goat in French) and a paper image of a goat onto the block. Last, I added a fabric scrap ‘banner’ with ‘chevre’ stamped onto it.


I also made a spring-tyme bunny. I added a wooly tail, seed beads for eyes, embroidery floss nose/mouth and needle-felted the topiary wooly green ball around the dowel. (The dowel is wrapped with ribbon.) I stitched on a few randomly placed vintage mother-of-pearl buttons and glued a pink ribbon rose atop each button.

Well… got to go… daylight’s burning… and the great outdoors is calling!

Make room…

…for more snow!?

This is the view from my window ~ today…what happened to Spring?

Old man winter isn’t giving up without a fight here in Michigan! Nevermind…I’m still working on bunnies and preparing my shop for Spring re-opening! I’ve been making soap all last week too!

This primitive bunny is a smaller version of some of my earlier bunnies. He’s stitched on muslin, painted with acrylics, bead eye and stitched nose. I dry-brushed a bit of color in his ear and added a wooly tail. I needle felted a carrot in two halves and then needle felted/attached them through the ‘center’ of the topiary base. Added a few snippets of green wool for carrot tops.

Oh, and tucked in a bit of dried fragrant herbs before I stitched him up!

I’m hoping for warmer weather since we’ll be shearing sheep this weekend….!


Hungry Mice

If you’re wondering why I’ve been ‘off-line’ since last week Wednesday, it’s because I’ve been without telephone service. No biggie, since we all pretty much have cell phones, right?  

Wrong! No AT&T phone service means no DSL and no computer hook-up.


Finally, yesterday at about 6 p.m., the AT&T repair man showed up on our doorstep to investigate the ‘problem’. About fifteen minutes later, he tracked down the location of the problem. Apparently, hungry little mice had been munching on the wires resulting in our lack of technology!

In the meantime… I kept busy enough without the disruption(?) of the computer…

I made more bunnies…

…a bit more primitive perhaps? That’s a little clay carrot necklace I made dangling around his neck.

This one is still ‘in progress’. I think I’ll add a needle felted carrot at the base of the topiary.

Speaking of carrots…I made a few more needle felted carrots to feed hungry bunnies.

Then I made a few wooly sheepy ‘pillows’ stuffed with my dried herbs ~ very fragrant.

This is a simple wet felted ‘free-form’ sheepy made with wool roving. (The back of all the pillows is made with recycled wool from my rug hooking stash.) The sheep is standing in a field of hand-stitched ‘button’ daisies…c’mon Spring!


This is the back detail…more hand stitched daisies on a sky blue wool background.

Don’t have any wool roving? No matter. This wooly sheep is needle felted with mohair yarn! Sky blue and sunshine yellow…is it Spring yet? I love the daisy details to pick-up the ‘yellow’.  I stitched a yellow button to each corner of the pillow too.

I love the fuzzy texture of the mohair yarn.

Here’s another fuzzy mohair sheep, but with black face and legs. I needle felted the sheep in a field of poppies and added felted balls to each corner of the pillow.

Well, I survived a few days without the computer. (I did run up to the library w/my laptop once or twice!!) and I managed to get a few projects completed too! No computer required!


Finally…a bunny topiary!

I finally finished a bunny-themed ‘topiary’. You see, I never do anything from start to finish. Usually there’s several projects underway, including routine household things to-do, not to mention barnyard chores. I often steal away a few minutes here and there and hardly ever sit idle…unless I’ve collapsed into bed.

Anyway, this tabletop bunny topiary is made from items I found in my ‘stash’.

The bunny and carrot are made from a paper pattern I drew onto a brown paper bag and cut out from muslin. After I sewed the bunny, I tea stained the fabric and used acrylic black paint (thinned w/a little water) for accent…I wanted a little Dutch Dwarf rabbit. I stuffed the bunny and carrot with fiberfil and some dried lavender (just because) and applied a thin layer of mod podge to the surface, and brown shoe polish to ‘age’ it a bit. I used two different shades of orange and terra cotta on the carrot.

The bunny has a black bead for eyes, pink embroidery floss stitched nose, and a needle felted wool tail.

I tied on several strips of #6-cut green wool strips from my rug hooking snippet stash for the carrot-top greens.

I cut a red-twig dogwood branch from my yard to make the topiary ‘stem’ and used an old piece of porch ‘trim’ for the base. The topiary stands approx 16-inches tall and the bunny is about 8-inches long. Here’s my pattern.

I’ve been working on several additional topiary forms.

This one also has a branch as my ‘stem’, but I made a sphere with a grapevine form and wrapped it with spring green fabric strips dipped in mod podge. I like the irregular form. Anyway…the point of this discussion is that you can use/make any topiary shape you desire!

 I also made little fabric rosebuds from about a 6-inch X 1/4-inch strip of pink material (fold the strip in half lengthwise, tie a knot in one end and roll it up – place a stitch or dab of glue on the end) and glued them onto the finished form with fabric glue…and a few leaves? You could add as many spheres or conical shapes as you desire! Now all I need is a bunny for a topper (still think’n about Easter?) and a base of some sort.

I like to recycle/repurpose items found around the house. Old wood porch banister, candlesticks, textile bobbins, an old milk pitcher…lots of possibilities. Now where did I put that sheet moss?

I hope this inspires you to create a topiary for yourself to help chase away the gray winter blahs and think Spring!


I ‘topiaried’ my sweet bay

topiary – adj, n,: of, relating to, or being the practice or art of training , cutting, and trimming trees or shrubs into odd or ornamental shapes.

Every year a few ‘select’ potted herbs travel between my garden outdoors ~ as soon as ‘Spring’ arrives ~  and then safely again indoors to over-winter on a southern exposed windowsill. Usually, a number of scented geraniums, perhaps a rosemary or two (they’re very temperamental), lavender and my sweet bay laurel are my indoor/outdoor potted herbs.

I obtained my sweet bay ‘starter’ plant (Laurus nobilis – most laurels, except the sweet bay are poisonous!) several years ago in a 3 or 4-inch pot at a nursery. The leaves of a fresh bay plant are slick, shiny, vibrant dark forest green and exude a sharp clean scent when rubbed between your fingers.  One leaf or two, is enough to flavor a whole pot roast, stew or kettle of soup!  Bay is often an ingredient added to bouquet garni and potpourri.

Sweet bay can easily be grown successfully in a container…and, if desired, pruned into an elegant topiary. It prefers full sun and good drainage and may be propagated from cuttings. 


Select a topiary candidate: scented geranium, lavender, rosemary, sweet bay, santolina, myrtle, sweet bay, etc., to name a few. I like to use woody stem-type plants/herbs. You may purchase a ‘mother’ plant from a local nursery – from which to take cuttings (and root) and make lots of baby plants…or look for a semi-instant gratification topiary candidate. A plant with a single or strong central/straight stem. The scented geraniums (above), the mother plant is on the left, the topiary on the right is one of her babies, 2 or 3 years old?

Here is a rosemary topiary, flowering.

Once you have your topiary candidate, now comes the scary part. Select the strong central stem, and cut off (depending on the topiary shape you’ve chosen) and strip all the side leaves/stems and secondary branches (dry/save them to use in the kitchen – OR – root them in a glass of water to make more plants) and leave 10 – 15 leaves at the top! As the plant grows, continue to trim any side shoots to encourage top growth. Rotate the pot every few days and insert a stake in the soil and tie the plant to it loosely with raffia several inches apart.

Here’s a close-up of my recently ‘topiaried’ sweet bay plant. I cut off the side-branch right at the soil level, leaving the ONE straight main branch to begin my topiary. The bay is about 4 1/2 feet tall. I’d like to have a three-tiered topiary…so I have a top ball, center and bottom. Every leaf and lateral stem in-between will be removed/clipped, to promote growth in these three spheres. I also plan to re-pot my bay into a larger/deeper pot and will also stake it for additional support (and to make sure it grows straight) once it’s transplanted…always something to do!

Make sure your pot has a drainage hole; I use a soil-less starter potting mix with new/bare-root cuttings. Fertilize once per month with a liquid fertilizer, April thru November. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.

I hope you try to grow a topiary or two!

Scented Geranium Topiary Standard

Lemon-Scented Geranium Topiary

Lemon-Scented Geranium Topiary

Gently rub the leaves of any scented geranium (Pelargonium) plant and you will be immediately transported to the summer garden as a sensual fragrance fills the air and clings to your fingertips! The scented geranium gets its scent from volatile oils in the leaves rather than from the small and somewhat insignificant flowers that appear periodically. The slightest pressure upon the leaves will release a wonderful scent…lemon, rose, apple, chocolate are more common varieties. The leaves may be steeped in warm water or cream or to scent and flavor sugar with its delicate scent.

If you have patience and vision, growing a topiary standard will provide you with many hours of pleasure. Topiaries are plants that have been ‘trained’ by staking and pruning to grow a tree-like plant on a single, thickened stem, which becomes the ‘trunk’. The branching, leafy portion of the plant is pruned and clipped into a specific shape, sometimes ornate and fanciful or single or multiple ‘balls’. Topiaries often require twelve or more months to realize their intended form. Always start with a healthy plant with a straight central stem. By clipping, pruning and staking, your topiary will begin to develop. Scented geraniums will thrive indoors on a windowsill or outside on a porch (with temps above freezing!) with a half-day or more of sunlight.

Rosemary, lavender, santolina, bay are a few herb plants that are easily trained as topiary standards. If you love the look of a formal topiary standard, but don’t have the patience to start one yourself, they’re often found at better nurseries and garden specialty stores.