Make some of your own topiary frames

18 years ago

I am a newbie to topiary... and I am sure my ideas are not new but it might save some of you a couple of dollars. I cannot afford expensive frames and have very little artistic talent but I do have an active imagination. Last month I saw a neighbor kid dragging his hugh teddy bear down the street. The bear was as big as the little boy. So I thought why not go to the thrift stores for stuff toys to use as molds for frames! How difficult can it be??

I found bears, elephants and lots of other toys I can wrap wire around for a topiary mold. I found a kid size toy plastic train that was falling apart but will stay together for a wire mold too. There were other objects I can also wrap with wire... like a cracked swan planter, a broken garden statute. The cost is $1.00 to $3.00 with some of the larger ones up to a biggie $5.00 purchase.

I bought green plastic coated fencing wire (at Home Depot) to be placed over the larger objects and these molds will go over a live bush. On the smaller molds, I will use chicken wire... stuff with moss... and wrap with fishing line if needed. The chicken wire will be spray painted green before stuffing. Have you ever wondered where those nurseries and internet sellers buy the moss to sell to you? Well they buy from a florist supply house. Some of them will sell to the happy homeowner too. I found I can buy a hugh 3.5 cubic foot bag of Sphagnum moss for a lot less than I would have to pay for lots of little bags at Home Depot.

A friend has a life size stuffed tiger and a life size stuffed alligator!! She said I could make a mold from these too.

Have you ever really looked at a large tomatoe growing basket frame that you use to help keep your tomatoes off the ground? Well put the round side into the ground over a bush and you will have a cone shaped bush in the end. There are objects all around you that you can use for a mold to make a frame.

I told my neighbor I wanted to plant him in my yard. After laughing, I explained I wanted to wrap him with plastic coated fencing wire and place the mold over a bush in my garden. It will be done in two pieces, front and back... and tied together with wire. I wonder what your kids would say if you planted them their very own bush in your yard. It is only limited to your imagination on what topiary images and forms you can put in your yard.

I have arthritis in my hands and a not so good back... so it would be very difficult for me to use heavy gauge wire. I am limited to fencing and chicken wire... plus this project will be ongoing for a long time. But some of you out there could use the heavy gauge wire on a larger object... such as an old car or boat etc. I wonder if anyone has a car growing their yard?

Comments (41)

  • Zack75
    18 years ago

    After 2 years of listening you couldn't keep it bottled up anylonger. Doesn't sound like your a newbie. A lot of these forums see little action. (look at the most recent posts that still haven't had a reply). If you want some action, post a photo of your top's on the garden photo gallery. This forum see the most activity. click the link below to check it out.


    Here is a link that might be useful: garden photo gallery

  • caroles_jungle
    Original Author
    18 years ago

    Hi Zack,

    Well... it has been mostly reading about topiary so far and looking for some examples and inexpensive frames to buy. The last frame I wanted was $100. plus shipping costs... so I looked for other frame alternatives. I have been doing a couple of small projects just to see how fast some of the plants grow etc. before I screw up a larger project. I have a digital camera around here somewhere and will take pics when I have something nice to show.

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  • virakech
    18 years ago

    sounds like you're my kind of person.

    I tried to talk my church landscape committee into using a strip of ground to recreate the last supper in topiary. It was shot down with all the possible negatives. I'm so tired of negatives and what-ifs.

    Be Bold, I say.

    I really like your idea of growing your children in your garden.

  • caroles_jungle
    Original Author
    18 years ago

    Vicki maybe an entire bible scene is too overwhelming for them to think about. Maybe you should approach your church a little differently. What is that old saying? Idle hands makes the devil's work? How about a gardening project for the children at the church? Most all kids like playing in the dirt... like building castles in the sand or with rocks too. You could include some rock and topiary features in your designs... and start small such as a lamb looking bush and then graduate into angels etc? I have an 2 foot cement angel standing in a bird bath in my bird feeding area and it is fun to see the birds drink or bath under the statue. ... just a few thoughts

  • yellowhair
    18 years ago

    Enjoyed your post, Caroles! I'm using some of my old tomato cages turned upside down for 2 small Christmas tree topiaries. I'd like to try an animal design. sue

  • caroles_jungle
    Original Author
    18 years ago

    Hi Sue... A teddy bear is the most basic unless you have another critter in mind. My bear is still growing into the mold as I used a large size one. You can get one at a thrift store and mold it with fence wire. I have a couple of small cone bushes that look like Christmas trees in my front yard. I am putting tinsel on these this year and the lights on my caboose.

  • ohiovalleygal
    18 years ago

    I'm going to try to get some ivy to cover an old umbrella frame that I ripped the old fabric off and then covered with chicken wire.

    I had good luck tying 3 wooden tomato stakes together and making a pyramid shaped ivy topiary about 3 years ago. It was so easy!


  • Rosey_Z7_SC
    18 years ago

    I think you're super! I stopped WAY short of your ingenuity when my gardening-loving dad died. I brought two of my dad's cone tomato cages. I put them upside down in some ivy in two huge round concrete planters on my front porch. I had tried for years to grow various things in those planters and all my husband kept saying was,..."but you have those tomato cages upside down..."
    Now they look like two wonderfully healthy 'ivy trees' that my husband now appreciates. Not only do I have a little part of Dad's garden, but I also have two nice topiaries on my porch!
    I can't believe you want to wait to take photos for us with the enthusiasm you've generated here. I wish you'd take some shots to show us how you're starting these things.

    (Are you sure you're not Martha Stewart's honest sister?)

    Thanks for some great ideas!!

  • freakycola
    18 years ago

    Exactly how do you put the fence around the stuffed toy, then get it off in a molded shape? I want to do an octopus.

  • Sally_Painter
    18 years ago

    I am so excited to find this forum. And even more so, this thread. I haven't had the priviledge of having a garden for a few years. And am now in the process of purchasing a home (new)with a postage size yard. While trying to come up with a garden design that packs some punch, whimsy and magical atmosphere, suddenly "The Committee That Holds Court" in my brain during the dark of the night, flashed TOPIARY, TOPIARY, TOPIARY. My response was Oh, That's an excellent idea, but I have never done this before.

    So it must have been the Committee who sent me to this forum.
    I wasn't dreaming of simple shapes, like cones, pyramids, etc. but, of elephants. Particulary a dancing elephant.
    And now Caroles Jungle, it seems you have given me more info that I can use for this creation. Who knows someday it may become a real circus out there.

    Question? I live in Western Oregon, Zone 7-8. Does anyone have any suggestions re: plant choices?
    Probably I should practice on a simpler shape first.

    Thanks so much to all of you for your enthusiam. It is contagious.

  • Jungle_Jim
    18 years ago

    Ha.... I have a few neighbors I wouldn't mind wrapping up in heavy gauge wire and tossing into a bush.... LOLOLOL.... is that what you meant? LOLOLOL.... Jim

    18 years ago

    I wish somebody could show picture of the finished topiary molding from a stuffed toys. I like to make one myself but still I can't "picture" of how to do it. :(

  • Xtal in Central TX, zone 8b
    18 years ago

    Once having read all these notes, I couldn't help but provide ya'll with some imagery. A friend in Houston told me of a large topiary with 3 dancing bears. At Easter, the owners put Easter baskets in their hand. I'm sure that you could add other holiday ideas as they roll around.

    When I was last in Houston, there was a nursery that took over the esplanades and put up large topiaries. Dinosaur, donkey (and of course, for the politically correct, an elephant).

    I've seen the white wire armature of deers that are sold at Christmas that nurseries sell for stringing your Chirstmas lights around. Why not fill it in and put a big red ball light on the end of the nose come Christmas?

    When I get around to building my topiary, you can bet that I'll put a picture up. I've been giving thought to having a couple of horses rearding up or maybe some longhorn grazing in the pasture. Lord only knows that we have a nasty ivy vine that you can't kill... so why not incorporate it.

    Like many of you said, you are only restricted to your own ideas. It was just too neat not to share it. Good luck to all!

  • PRO
    Nell Jean
    18 years ago

    There were some overgrown boxwoods at the end of my carport toward the back, out of sight of the passersby.

    I left three tall shoots and began to snip away the parts that don't look like chickens. They keep growing and I keep snipping. With a bit of a squint and a strong imagination, you can see three chickens standing atop what is now a low box hedge.


    17 years ago

    Last time in Vegas I saw plastic frames that looked like the kind soda cans come in, used to form turtles, bears, aligators, birds, and I still an not sure what that was supposed to be. They were used to form topiary frames for the plants on the property of the hotels. Anybody else see them Where can I get them for home?

  • Weedyone
    17 years ago

    Hi All, This thread has been going for a long time, with little added information, and no one has yet mentioned the easy and obvious. With the up comming holiday season, most all of the home improvement stores have animated and standard animal figures on display. They are getting cheaper and cheaper each year. In our area, a $20.00 bill will cover almost any form. These might not be exactly what you would order for topiary, but with some clever clipping and snipping, these forms can create some very interesting green forms for our yards in the comming seasons. If you are still looking for the very cheap, try the goodwill stores or other similar shops. They might have something a bit older for a lot less.
    Last resort would be to "borrow" one of these forms and wrap it quick with chicken wire,(just to get a basic form) and start from there.

    If you don't care for the holiday themes, try visiting a "lawn ornament" shop (cement yard art). Ask if you could wrap some wire around one of their unpainted figures, to get a basic shape.( dogs, ducks,swans,bears,etc) What ever you like in your neighbors lawns will look great in your lawn as a living green.

  • Marianne018
    17 years ago

    I enjoyed Carole's post and even got some ideas from it. But I really prefer my ad lib topiary made with box and yew. I look at the bush from every angle and use my imagination. One yew had three shoots, two pointing north and one south and I suddenly saw that it was the distinct shape of a capercaillie, a native forest hen. Or at least the beginning of one. I have been snipping at it for two years now and even my unimaginative neighbours don't sneer at it any longer.

  • kcava630
    17 years ago

    Anybody know what gauge wire is best to make a topiary frame?

  • Feather_Inc
    17 years ago

    How do you guys get the stuffed animals out of the wire once you have them wrapped. The only way I could think of is wrapping the wire in such a way that you have a spot to clip the frame in half without in unraveling and then when the animal is out wiring it back together. do I have this right??

  • Gypsy_NC
    17 years ago

    I have made some really cool topiary frames out of leftover cuttings from wisteria, grapevine and willow. I make the basic form - ball, cone (although those tomato cages are wonderful, and may I suggest spray-painting them gold and using fake ivy from the $ store until the real stuff comes in well) or whatever from the heavier wisteria vines, tying them with twine, and then wrap them with gravevine or willow. All of these plants need heavy pruning, and if you have access to them it is wonderful - I got the idea last year when I pruned my wisteria which had gotten out of control. I thought there just HAD to be something I could make out of that stuff - too good to throw away. These hold up very well even outside (zone 7) and are great for any vines, even vining houseplants kept inside. You can do them any size and use them for crafts such as memory topiaries - I am doing one with the roses I dried from my and my daughter's dance recital. Let me know if you need additional insstructions.

    By the way - this is first posting in over a year - I have Crohn's Disease and have not felt like doing anything (everyone gauges my health by how my yard looks). It is wonderful to be back!!!

  • Busybody_T
    17 years ago

    How do I make a simple round shape? I would like to make a simple 3-tier topiary. Thanks, Teresa

  • Gypsy_NC
    17 years ago

    Hi Busybody...

    First determine what size your largest ball needs to be. Make that shape first and then get sequentially smaller for each ball. Also decide how tall you want your topiary to be and then find something to use as a support. I am creative because I have a very serious (like 0) budget! I use whatever I can find, such as old mini blind sticks, leftover bamboo garden stakes, misc. pieces of PVC pipe, tobacco sticks, straight branches I have pruned, etc.

    To make a ball shape you can use either a heavy gauge wire (coat hangers work OK, just cut off the hook part) or a heavy vine such as wisteria or heavy grapevine to make a circle. Then make another circle and insert it into your first one so that they intersect. Then do the same again and spread them out evenly. If I am using wire I will also use wire to fasten the circles together where they intersect, for vine topiaries I use twine or ties made from old stockings. You will then need to make an "equator" to go around your ball,and wire also where the equator circle intersects with the ball. Wrap the ball with vine or wire, accordingly - I kind of weave it around thru the basic ball shape. Stick your sopport stake thru the middle & position it where you want to be, then determine the size of your 2nd & 3rd balls & make in the same manner. Don't wire them in place until you get all of your balls the way you want them. Remember they don't have to be perfect as they will be covered. Sometimes I spray paint mine gold or siver (let them cure well untill you grow vines on them.

    It's really not hard - no one taught me how to do and I am sure there are lots of different ways - it's just a lot of trial and error. It might be easier to try a basic one-ball shape first, and then work up. It's very rewarding to make something that looks so expensive (and is, if you buy it) out of stuff you don't have to buy, except for a few inexpensive supplies such as wire if you don't have it already. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but poverty is the father of creativity!!! ;-) Good luck & have fun!

  • zionadams
    17 years ago

    To answer the question about how to get the stuffed animal form out of the newly constructed wire thought would be to leave the bottom open and slide the arms out of the sockets then simply pull the thing out of the bottom of the form. At the point you do this, the arms, neck, head arms can be 90% attached, with maybe a bit of tightening and tweaking left to be done around the arm holes and neck...but the form would be established.

    The only thing I can think to add would be what I'm going to try to do...find the overstuffed (stiffer) stuffed animals, not the softer ones.

    This has been a goal of mine for a while. We have all the supplies...I'm just worried about durability in our windy enviornment. We have green ranch-fencing posts (Home Depot $2-3 each) that come in 2,4,5,6 and 8ft lengths. It never occured to me to use one! By the will need a post-setter too ($20) or the post won't grip the ground properly.

    I think I'm gonna do a tomato cage one too; at $5 for the total investment who can resist such a striking project?

  • luvbrd1969
    16 years ago

    Hello everyone,,this is my first time to post ..Awhile back I was given one of the Christmass lawn decorations that you hang lights on,,its metal & in the shape of Angel & about 4 ft tall..I'm wanting to try my first topiary & wondering if it would be best to cover it in wire & plant something on it or plant some type of shrub inside of it & trim as it grows?Any ideas as to what I should plant?

    take care
    Vicki or

  • ianna
    16 years ago

    It's your first time at this, why not simply fill it in with moss and some soiless mix, and some chicken wire to keep it all in. This way, you can experiment, have fun and see if it's something you'd enjoy long term. Then, if you are interested in the project -long term, by all means do try making the shrub topiary which will take years to accomplish.

  • crowspice
    15 years ago

    This thread is over three years old, and the same questions keep coming up, but not the answers! Carole, where ARE you?
    And where are the pictures of your topiaries made by wrapping stuffed toys with green-coated chicken wire?
    And the BIGGIE question: How does one then REMOVE the wrapped object from the wire form???? Pleeeeez can we finally resolve these longstanding questions? Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • mustloveplants
    15 years ago

    I agree crowspice.
    Where o where can carole be......
    new to this forum too, and would love to get those answers replied to too.
    because i am only in zone 3, i have topiary's inside and put them out in, i have a giraffe with ivy growing year round in my living room. quite the conversation piece. then when warm enough, just put outside.
    anyway, happy topiary all......

  • crowspice
    14 years ago

    Okay, now this post is FOUR years old with very few questions answered and still no pictures! So I will ask yet again, how does one remove the wrapped item (form)from its wire wrap? Could a stuffed toy become a topiary subject by removing the stuffing, replacing it with soiless mix and planting directly thru the plush? Eventually the acrylic plush would rot away but that would take quite a long time
    and, presumably, by then, the plants would be well rooted and solid in their own right. Yes? No? Has anyone tried this?
    Also, as regards a post here that references plastic soda
    rings being used for topiary frames, does anyone know the particulars of this?

    Can we please get some meaningful discussion going here once again? And some photos? Please? Anyone? Thanks!

  • tweinzerl
    14 years ago

    I found this last night while searching for info on making topiary frames. I am new to topiary and have not actually planted one yet. My mom and aunt got frames for their birthday from my Grandmother and I want one! They are pricey and hard to find the two piece ones like they have that snaps around the Boxwood plant. I saw Carole's post and thought, what a novel idea! My just turned three year old would be so cute greeting guest in my front yard! But then I thought, wrapping him in chicken wire would cut him to bits. I thought, hmmm how could I make a pattern, wrap papaer around his body parts to get a general idea, then cut the peices and wire them toghether? No, too much work. Then I thought, duh, you sew, use a pattern!Then I thought, he is a boy, there aren't that many patterns for boys clothes. Then, the old brain kicked in, use his clothes! So I grabbed a pair of jeans and a shirt and a permanent marker and all I had was hardware cloth but I made a pattern and cut out one part of his shirt. I then cut out a side of his pants. I then ran out of wire! So here I am , at 7:45, a half hour away from Home Depot,and an itch to make this! So I jumped in the car and bought some chicken wire! Home Depot sells the green plastic coated chicken wire but I bought cheap galvonized just to see if I can do it. So far, I have the shirt front and back and the jeans front and back. I wired them shut at the sides, just like sewing. I made my peices bigger so I can trim down. I slipped the shirt over the jeans and bent the ends of the shirt so it flairs out a bit so you can see the end of the shirt and start of the jeans. I bent the wire so you can see his littel tush and shaped his chest. I left extra wire at the top of the shirt to form a neck. Then, I will make a circle for his head and shape it and wire it on. I left extra wire on the ends of his shirt to form some type of hand and will use the extra wire at the end of the pant legs for shoes. I will then buy some plastic covered stakes and wire them to each leg on the inside. I thought I would buy a pot and concrete the post in just a few inches at the bottom of the pot. I will then fill the rest of the pot with dirt and annual flowers. I will stuff the frame with moss and plant my Ivy for the shirt, I am looking at periwinkle for the jeans, and black mondo grass for his hair. I will then dig a hole in my front yard and sink the pot. In the winter, I will pull it up and bring him in! After I get the form shaped, I will send pics. I am still working on the neck, head, shoes, and hands. I am planning on making another one out of just chicken wire so I will send step by step pics when I do that. I hope to tackle a fairy and one of those ladies with a water can next. Those will be for my boxwood!

  • topiaryrose
    14 years ago

    Hi tweinzerl ~ I do hope you are using needle nose pliers and wire snips to make your first experience in topiary a little easier. I like to make lifesize Victorian ladies who garden in my garden. I cover them with spaghnum moss, however, I do not plant in the moss simply because it is an all-consuming project what with keeping the moss moist to keep your plants alive. I do make pockets and stick a whole pot in my topiaries, or with my Victorian ladies I cover the upper portion of the bodies with moss and plant creeping fig, privet, or some other fast growing plant for the skirt. Over the years I've made an 8' tall rabbit whose name was "Harvey" of course; Winnie the Pooh; the March Hare, the Madhatter, Cheshire Cat, Teapots and Teacups and Alice, all from Alice in Wonderland. I've taught chicken wire topiary at community colleges and Descanso Gardens and the Arboretum in Southern California. For most projects I use 2' wide, 1" hex chicken wire; with my Victorian ladies I use 3' wide, 1" hex and usually double the wire because the chicken wire is not as stable as it used to be. Please email me at if you need any help.


  • knickknack
    14 years ago

    hey i'm also very interested in making topiary frames could you send pictures of your ladies that would be great to get an idea of how you did it. thanks

  • topiary_joe
    13 years ago

    In answer to using old plush toys filled with soil? Why Not? Plants are rather adaptive and you will find something willing to take over and be cut back regularly, returning with a vengeance to cover that toy completely.
    I make topiary for a living and have used alot of drainage pipe for letters like a billboard I did in SF for that was completely planted with ficus vine for a years' contract. I secured the black plastic 4" tubing to the billboard forming letters along the way, forty feet up...filled with soil, made plant holes 1 per foot,covered in sphagnum moss secured with fishing line, made a solar powered drip system with 50 gallon drum water reservoir (remote location) pumped it 40' up, another pump for 40' across...The new disney retail headquarters in Pasadena, CA has an 18' Mickey Mouse Archway at the has alot of spare space inside and is filled with refuse plastic. the plants dont mind as long as they have soil and water to grow in. The 15' ABSOLUT bottle I did in St Thomas has basically a teddy bear lining inside to hold plants and soils in, come to think of it. 3 months later the ficus vine had fully taken over, no doubt it did not hurt using grey water for conservation methods...dark green plants after that!

  • jilliterate
    10 years ago

    Thanks for sharing, everyone. I've got some great ideas. I'm going to just make a frame and grow some petunias around it this season, but for next season I'm going to stuff it with moss and try some low growing evergreen on it. I'm with whoever said Octopus. If I'm lucky, it'll rise out of my garden like Chthulu. :)

    Moving along...
    If you haven't seen the documentary called "A Man Named Pearl" PLEASE watch it. There's a man in my state (SC) who is a topiary prodigy and it's a documentary of his life and property. It's on instant watch for Netflix.

  • kgbkgb
    9 years ago

    If you've covered an old teddy bear with wire, and you want to get him/her out, seems to me it be best to have cut away the fabric at the end of one leg prior to applying wire, so that you could remove the polyfill through that opening, and then finally remove the bear's outer fabric through the same opening. Then simply wire off that opening. Or did someone finally answer the question??? I'm not sure. LOL.

  • dethcheez
    8 years ago

    I made a life size Cousin It out of live Spanish Moss & an upside down tomato cage

    Here is a link that might be useful: Tillandsia Cousin It X Swampthing

  • jolj
    8 years ago

    I am making a veggie & horticulture garden for my grown children & any gran,s may come alone.
    I work with trees,shrubs & ground covers,bulbs,herbs.
    I like weeping plants & trellis, concrete planter,benches,stepping stones, but have not used topiary because the plants that fill the frame fast must be maintained weekly with hair cut pruning are to time consuming.
    What plant will fill a frame in 6-18 months & not need hair cut pruning every week?

  • kameronwilliams
    8 years ago

    I thought I would share this website I just recieved my Topiary plant kit from amazed by the quality. I now have a 4ft 3 tier topiary plant and all it cost me is $75 bucks

    Here is a link that might be useful: TOPIARY KIT $75.00

  • tete_a_tete
    6 years ago

    I'm having trouble posting my picture...

    When I read this thread last night, this is how I imagined that the chicken wire would be applied to the teddy bear:

    Let me just check that it will send properly...

  • tete_a_tete
    6 years ago

    Oh! It's a giant teddy.

    Anyhow, I thought that you would press a piece of chicken wire against his front, a separate piece against his back, gently prize them off the teddy, wrestle them back into shape a bit and then wire them together. Got no idea if this would work. I've never tried it.

    But good luck. Maybe this will be the start of a plague.

  • Carol Preston
    6 years ago

    I would think shaping it freehand would be easier. You could use the model to gauge proportions of the head, arms, torso, etc. Then just think of each body section as a component and see it as a ball, round, or elongated, cylinder, just like you would for drawing. Then wire them together.