The Craftsmanship of Topiary in Tuscany

 

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On a craftsmen tour of Tuscany we were immersed in the passion of a shoemaker, as well as the detail involved in making mosaic stone and even the true art of creating a drummers cymbal. Though they were all remarkable, there was one other unique craft that fascinated me, topiary.

When I heard that we would be headed to Pistoia to learn how to make topiary I was thinking more along the lines of a cute little table top rosemary bush in the shape of a heart, just like the ones I had seen in my local grocery stores flower shop. It was nothing like that. Actually, Romiti e Giusti does prune plants in unique shapes, but instead of tiny rosemary hearts they produce life-size (and larger) automobiles, teddy bears, tea cups and dinosaurs.

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It all begins with creating a metal form in the desired shape. On this particular day the worker was expertly welding a large horse, one that would have been a piece of art even without the greenery. But, this one would be joining three of his friends in order to make an impressive horse and carriage topiary.

After the structure is complete the plant of choice, usually Ligustrum Delavayanum, is intertwined within. Then you nurture, water and love it as it grows to be an adult, which usually takes a minimum of six months. All the while the expert trimmer, who is armed with a hedge cutter, keeps things tidy to ensure the proper growth.

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And then, if you followed all the steps properly, you have yourself a topiary ready for display in front of any amusement park, office complex or even your own home.

As we learned, this is a very special niche of the plant market, which started in the Roman times and continues all over the world today. But, there was something special about Romiti e Giusti. Maybe it was Tuscany. Maybe it was that one cute topiary made in the shape of a pig. And maybe it was just because of the passion that oozed from every stem.

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