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Art of training living trees and shrubs into artificial, decorative shapes. Topiary is known to have been practiced in the 1st century AD. The earliest topiary was probably the simple development of edgings, cones, columns, and spires to accent a garden scene. This architectural use gave way to elaborate shapes such as ships, hunters, and hounds. The fashion reached its height in Britain in the late 17th and early 18th century but was displaced by the so-called natural garden.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on topiary, visit Britannica.com.