Don't miss the annual trimming of the world's oldest topiary garden

aerial shot on levens halls and gardens topiary garden
Annual trimming of world's oldest topiary garden Levens Hall and Gardens

Levens Hall and Gardens, nestled in the beautiful setting of the South Lakes, Cumbria, is home to the world's oldest topiary garden. Once a year it opens its doors to the general public who are invited to observe the artistry and effort that goes into the annual hedge trimming.

Weird and wonderful, topiary is a hedge sculpting practice that dates back to the Classical era, becoming popular in England in the late 17th century – the oldest trimmed hedges in the garden date back to 1694. While neatly organised and structured gardens were fashionable at the time, many have since been destroyed due to a shift towards more wild and naturalistic outdoor spaces.

levens hall and gardens topiary garden
Topiary is a practice that originated in the Classical era Levens Hall and Gardens

This is one of a few that remains, and the team at Levens Hall and Gardens take the duty of custodians of the oldest topiary garden very seriously. Formed of 100 trees and hedges, only one or a maximum of two can be worked on per day during the trimming period.

The entire garden takes up to six months to perfect, however, the spectacle is only open to the public for the month of September (and a few days at the start of October) before the doors of the site are closed again until spring.

The slightly surreal procedure involves shaving off overgrowth little by little to perfect the distinct and varying shapes of the hedges. The gardeners often have to work from height using scaffold towers and cherry pickers. Noteworthy shapes they are tasked with finessing include a peacock, Queen Elizabeth I and Homer Simpson.

levens hall and gardens topiary garden
In the oldest topiary garden in the world, 6 months is spent every year perfecting the shape of each hedgeLevens Hall and Gardens

The open month also provides visitors with an opportunity to ask questions to the specialist gardeners, who take pleasure in keeping the tradition of topiary alive.

While you're there, we recommend a walk around the many other gardens, such as the rose garden, wildflower meadow and vegetable garden. A visit to the fascinating historical Elizabethan home is also a must.

For tickets and more information, visit

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