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Shear Pleasures

Keith Buesing’s talent for topiaries

If you’ve been in New Paltz lately you may have noticed some unusual shrubs dotted around town: a snail-shaped one, or a lizard. They’re the work of Keith Buesing, a landscape designer based in nearby Gardiner who has a whimsical way with shears.

“I was born and raised in the landscaping business,” says Buesing, now 50, whose parents owned a nursery in Rockland County. Until he launched his own business in 2000, Buesing worked with his father and brother, designing and installing gardens, and began making topiaries about 10 years ago.

“People would want us to keep the plants shaped nicely, and in the process of pruning, the mind starts to wander,” he says. “I started thinking about what shapes can be done, other than spheres and cubes.”

Topiary is as old as gardening itself — in fact, the word is derived from the Latin term “topiarus,” meaning landscaper. (Pliny the Younger wrote of his fanciful shrubs.) Laurels, yews, hollies, arborvitae, and privets are among the evergreens that lend themselves to being clipped into shapes. But, says Buesing, “Boxwoods are probably best — for one thing, because the deer don’t seem to eat them.” He has also used certain junipers, and even created a giraffe from four purple-leafed plums, with each trunk forming a leg, and the body a mass of pink blooms in spring.

Once a shrub is trained and clipped, it needs to be trimmed to maintain its shape just once or twice a year, Buesing says. “If you have an eye, you can do it yourself with regular hand tools, pruners and shears.”

Those who want no maintenance at all can add a touch of wonder to their garden with one of Buesing’s stone works.

For more information, call 845-255-6634. ●

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