The origins of the 'town of topiary'

MEET THE MAKER: Neil Hurley created Railton's first topiary figure in 1999, and the 'Town of Topiary' grew from there, with more than 170 topiary creations now planted.
MEET THE MAKER: Neil Hurley created Railton's first topiary figure in 1999, and the 'Town of Topiary' grew from there, with more than 170 topiary creations now planted.

Two weeks would often go by without a tourist in sight as Railton’s Neil Hurley sat in his collectables shop waiting for customers.

The quiet little town on the southern edge of the North-West is somewhat off the beaten track, and Mr Hurley said it needed something to attract visitors.

“There was nothing here,” he said.

So he dreamed up a town of topiary.

“I made one and it just kept growing.”

Not long after Mr Hurley planted his first topiary creation in 1999, a group of keen locals got together and formed the Railton and District Development Association.

The group has done a lot of work since then, but one of its first projects was making frames to grow topiary around the town.

“We made it free for everyone in Railton who wanted one. We would make whatever they wanted, as long as they made it visible in their frontyards.”

There are now more than 170 topiary creations in Railton and the “Town of Topiary” has even gained national and international attention.

"We’ve had BBC film here, Better Homes and Gardens, and Costa,” Mr Hurley said.

“It really put the town on the map.”

Now in his Looking Glass Cottage shop, next door to his old collectables shop, Mr Hurley sells Christmas lights and decorations.

He created a paddock of topiary out the back of the shop, with everything from bullocks and emus to Tasmanian tigers and devils.

Bus loads of tourists often pull up outside his shop to gander at the green figures in the paddock and around the town.

“We get so many good comments from people – some brilliant feedback.”

Railton officially became known as the “Town of Topiary” a few years into the project.

The topiary frames take Mr Hurley one or two days to make, depending on the size and intricacy of the design.

And then it takes about three to four years for the hedge to grow and cover the frame – again, depending on the size.

Mr Hurley prunes the hedges to keep their shape every one-and-a-half to two weeks in spring, or when they’re getting a burst of growth.

“I couldn’t have done it without the help of the people in RADDA,” he said.

“And you notice the difference now in people coming here.

“Eventually, Railton really will take off.

“It’s a destination now for tourists.”

Mr Hurley hopes Railton’s topiary legacy will continue to grow and be maintained.

“It will hopefully get carried on by someone down the track.”