How to Shape a Spiral Evergreen Tree

Topiaries have been used as garden and landscaping decorations since Roman times. English nobles cultivated gardens with carefully trimmed evergreen shrubs in geometric patterns. New York City boasts a park full of shrubbery sculpted into animals, people and shapes. Many corn farmers in the United States cut their crops into mazes each year after harvest. You, too, can add interest and decoration to your garden or lawn with topiary sculpture. It requires some careful planning, but nearly anyone can do it. You may want to begin with a simple spiral shape before you move on to more complicated projects.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Property tape


    • 1

      Choose a tree to sculpt. Evergreens like junipers or arborvitae are the best choices because their dense growth will accommodate heavy pruning and allow for small mistakes. Pick a tree that is no more than six feet tall; anything taller requires extended time on a ladder and will be difficult to prune later.

    • 2

      Cut a 15-foot-long piece of property or caution tape. Both of these are non-sticky plastic ribbon used to mark off property lines and construction sites. They are available at hardware stores in many colors. Choose a bright color you can see easily.

    • 3

      Tie one end of the tape to the tip of the tree. Wrap the rest of the tape around the tree in a spiral pattern, making sure to keep the distance between coils even. Walk around your tree several times and make any necessary adjustments before you begin cutting. Secure the other end of the tape to a very low branch.

    • 4

      Begin snipping away branches with your pruning shears between the coils of property tape. Trim away about an inch of growth in a spiral all the way up the tree. Adjust your tape if it begins to slip or move, and remove another inch of growth from between the coils. Remove one more inch, and then remove the property tape.

    • 5

      Inspect your tree for any straggling or overlong branches, either in the recessed or bulging parts of the spiral. Make sure everything is smooth, compost the pruned foliage and enjoy your new topiary.

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  • Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

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