Bold shaped shrubs- the perfection of geometry

I’ve spent the past year of photographing and writing about interesting and richly varied gardens and plants. It’s been immensely enjoyable and satisfying. But something strange has happened. I’ve recently found myself unexpectedly drawn to the simple beauty of geometrically shaped shrubs and trees- something I’ve never had any interest in before. I keep noticing them and I’ve realised I really like them.

The geometric shapes can occur naturally, as with these cypresses,


or as the result of a vision, planning, and careful clipping and shaping.


Many small flowering plants form natural, spherical clumps which are quite delightful and look great in street plantings.


I asked myself, why has it taken me so long to wake up to the pleasures of geometry in the garden?

Naturally I consulted the ultimate authority, Wikipedia, and found the following quote from philosopher Bertrand Russell, which seems quite apposite:

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry.

Many gardeners in my home town, Mudgee, are already onto this. Now that I’ve got my eye in, everywhere I look I see beautiful geometric shapes emerging, that I’ve never really noticed before.

This young garden promises great things for the future.


I love the drama of this row of graduated cypresses. That they’re hardy and tolerate our harsh, dry climate, makes them even more appealing.


This Mudgee garden is looking interesting with a combination of geometric shapes, colours and textures.


These silvery grey spheres look fantastic against the rusty-brown woodchips.


On my recent trip to Armidale I found this delightful example of geometry in the garden.


The spheres are irresistible!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pleasure and purity of geometry is reminiscent of other simple pleasures- tea and toast after an excess of fine dining, an hour with a good book after a weekend of hectic socialising. I’ll always be drawn to gardens with “gorgeous trappings”, but my new appreciation of simple, “stern perfection” has enriched my understanding of what a garden can be.



2 Comments Add yours

  1. My Dream Garden says:

    Why Tony, how unlike you to be controversial! I think they all look good and I like the intent behind them. Thank goodness I didn’t put any photos in of my recent attempts at shaping …then you’d really be disappointed! J

    1. tonytomeo says:

      The difference is that you did it intentionally. The sorts of ‘gardeners’ that I must work with do it because they do not care. II remember a job where a Canary Island pine broke loose from the stake and fell over. I found it laying on the ground next to the stake. Rather than ask the gardeners to repair it, I tried to do it myself. By the time I went and got a tie and returned, the gardeners had shorn the tree into a round glob at the end of a horizontal trunk next to a stake. Several of our jobs had large trellises (as is the style nowadays) with shorn wisteria or bougainvillea bushes at the bottoms of them.
      I know it can be done properly. The home I lived in while in high school was flanked by a pair of formal privet hedges that I sheared quite well, with straight sides and a flat top. That sort of precision is never seen anymore.

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