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They Did What?: 

Privet hedge “turned into 100ft dragon” in 10-year clipping odyssey

Gardener spends 10 years sculpting hedge into shape of a dragon at Frizzleton Farm, Norfolk, Britain - 21 May 2014

This terrifying topiary is a decade in the making

John Brooker, 75, swears he only intended to create an ordinary privet hedge when he got out the garden shears in 2004. Now, ten years later, the hedge has six legs, giant jaws, and wings – like a fairytale dragon.

Brooker says his clippers “took on a life of their own” when he began. Oddly, Brooker, 75 isn’t a Tolkien buff. He says the inspiration may have come from his army days, when he fought in the Far East (against people, not dragons). “I thought I’d carve some arches in the other end, then a head and it just came from there.” Yahoo! News claims that the hedge “frightens” ramblers – but presumably only those of a fairly nervous disposition. It’s quite obviously a hedge.

Not all topiarists show off Brooker’s level of skill and dedication, though. New Orleans residents were perplexed to find a hedge in the city park that read “TY PARK”, whereas days before it had been the much more comprehensible “CITY PARK”. “A contractor made a mistake,” an official said. “A big mistake.”

The masters of the art show off skills that are frankly beyond belief, as seen at Montreal’s Mosaïcultures Internationales Montréal which has attracted more than a million visitors in a year – and, boasts the press release, has a satisfaction rate of “100%”. Look at this picture, and remind yourself these creatures are made of leaves, not living flesh. Some of the human ones are almost sexy.


Bow down to the masterful mosaiculture on display in Montreal

The international competition now draws sculptors from 100 cities, clipping at 22,000 plant species – but don’t for God’s sake call it topiary. “Mosaiculture should be distinguished from topiary, which features mostly shrubs pruned to create different shapes,” say the Canadians, sternly. The squirrel pictured here, at Rufford Old Hall in England is 100% pure topiary.

We have a lot of people coming by and taking pictures,” says Edna, who has transformed her garden into what some might describe as a temple of utter madness. No wonder – there are pyramids in there somewhere, along with what looks like tentacles, faces, and possibly demons from other dimensions. No wonder Edna has a face tinged with fear.

There’s a decent chance you have some topiary in your garden, even if these examples make you feel a slight skill deficit. Strictly speaking, any perennial plant cut into a shape is topiary, even if it’s a rectangle. The art – or craft – dates from Roman times. Flickr’s gallery here shows off some great topiary, not to mention a few splendid moustaches. Perhaps topiarists can’t resist practising on their faces.

Photo: Geoff Robinson Photography /

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