World Topiary Day: When a Creative PR Idea Comes Together

May 10th, 2024

World Topiary Day: When a Creative PR Idea Comes Together

This weekend will see the arrival of World Topiary Day 2024 – a now annual event that Catapult PR has delivered for the past four years, having first conceived it, as a creative PR idea, during the dark old days of the first Covid lockdown.

The idea for an awareness day based around topiary was a strategic one. It was all about underlining a unique selling point (USP) – the client being home to the oldest topiary garden in the world. Despite having a Guinness World Record for this feat, the whole thing was still very much under the radar. I saw that there was an opportunity to both boost awareness of the garden’s status in the world and simultaneously attract more UK and international visitors.

From the days of the doodle pad and sketching out the creative idea and concept, I also saw it as a way to make the client a global topiary thought-leader and the owner of the world’s number one topiary garden.

PR strategy and worldwide initiatives

The creative PR idea has worked fantastically well – hitting every strategic goal – as you will see from our case study. That case study is a little historic, as I write this, as 2024’s activity has been taking place and even more milestones have been hit. It’s already a blueprint of how to really create a vibrant PR campaign in the heritage sector and for a historic house/stately home and garden.

I suppose this year, more than any other thus far, we have really been involved with the European – and other – world gardens who have joined in this celebration with such great gusto.

Last year, I reached out to the Monumental Gardens of Valsanzibio near Padua and invited them to record a podcast with me, on my travel and leisure podcast, Poodling Around, highlighting the delights of their topiary. You can hear that here, or by heading to Poodling Around on Spotify, Apple, Google etc.

This year, I devised an initiative to involve them – and some French, English and Welsh gardens too – by creating a Topiary Message in a Bottle idea. We sent a message (in a bottle) to Valsanzbio and this then headed (without ever touching the murky waters of the English Channel) to the fabulous French garden of Marqueyssac and then on to La Ballue. In England, it went to Elton Hall and other gardens.


Some of the imagery from this bottle’s journey has been extraordinary, as you can see here.


World Topiary Day on audio

Then, I contacted the President of the European Boxwood and Topiary Society, Patrick Salembier, who has been such a great supporter of World Topiary Day on the Continent and in the USA. I recorded a podcast with him, to discover what the initiative means to these overseas gardens. I discovered that the strategy has worked fantastically well, with Levens Hall being much better known across the world than it was four years ago.

You can hear my Poodling Around podcast interview with Patrick Salembier here.

Topiary tourism and the new topiary gardens’ guide

But then I have engaged in a real labour of love this year. I recognised that what this initiative has actually created is a vibrant tourism theme of ‘topiary tourism’, with visitors not just heading to gardens per se, but specifically choosing to visit topiary gardens, thanks to World Topiary Day. Topiary is really enjoying a renaissance.

To cement this, I decided to create the very first Topiary Tourism Guide – a downloadable booklet and piece of content that enables a garden lover to find out more about the topiary that is to be found in gardens around the world and to plan trips around a topiary experience.

I say this was a labour of love because I had some information, in French, as supplied by Patrick Salembier. That all had to be translated, so I was constantly on a free translate App (if only it had been in Italian, it would have been so much easier!). My first stint at this was a full 13 hours on a Saturday. (Some people have things called ‘weekends’, I believe!).

Hours of desk research

But then, the content really needed to be augmented, with a specific focus placed on the topiary, so I visited 34 different websites – many of which were in French – to source more information about the gardens. Yet more hours on the translation App!

From there, I had to turn all of my notes into succinct copy that could entice a garden lover into a visit. Then there was that big old chestnut – the bane of my life – i.e trying to source imagery.

To say this has taken days and days is no lie. With liaison with my designer too, it has eaten up time (my time, not the client’s, as it’s far exceeded my official allocation). However, I do feel very proud to have managed to produce something that I feel will be a real asset to anyone who loves the artistry that accompanies clipped trees, who wants to admire the creations of other gardeners and who enjoys all the biophilia benefits that come from being around topiary.

I’m including the booklet here, so that, if you are reading this piece, you too can download it and maybe plan a day out – or a holiday experience – around topiary. I’ve tried to group French gardens in a logical pattern, north to south, and given them locations that Brits can relate to, such as the Dordogne and Loire.

2024 Levens Topiary Booklet Landscape MEDIUM

Future plans … although pretty tied up!

How I would love to do a road trip and visit some of these gardens myself but I don’t suppose that will happen. I still have an invite to visit Valsanzibio and haven’t even managed that yet! I guess I just need the right travelling companion and they’re probably ‘pretty tied up’!

Just imagine the podcasts I could create if I did head off in a Thelma or Louise way, though! As I write this, I have visions of an open-top car and an Isadora Duncan scarf (always a bad idea, as history has proved)!

In the meantime, my next must-do is to somehow get a Google Doodle for World Topiary Day. I’ve tried to start the process with a Beaumont Banner art contest, whereby we ask adults (or children) to create their own Google Doodle-style banner. It will probably take a good prize to get entries flooding in, however, but we’ll see.

Creativity without compromise!

In year one of this initiative, another marketing consultant told me I was ‘jammy’ to have World Topiary Day fall into my lap. I couldn’t for the life of me fathom how she could describe events in that way, given that it had been my strategic idea since day one and that I’d done all the groundwork to make it happen! My teeth were somewhat clenched!

Sometimes, that sort of comment just underlines for me that I must think very differently from many other people in the world. In fact, that’s what a client I’ve worked with since 2003 constantly says about me, although I suspect, despite his supposed deep admiration for the way I think, he just thinks genius is next to madness! Another client used to call me the Queen of Quirk! Then there’s another, who once said: “You bamboozle me with ideas, which look really out-there and I don’t really get it, but I trust you, let you go away and do it and then it invariably turns out brilliantly and I finally get it!”

I’ll take all of this. Better to be creative, ‘jammy’ and ever-so-slightly mad than generating turgid campaigns with no spark, methinks. A host of awards judges have already agreed that World Topiary Day has achieved miracles. Onwards, upwards, to infinity (a Google Doodle) and beyond!

If you’d like to benefit from some very different thinking, you know where I am.  Just email or message me on LinkedIn.

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