Who knew the world of topiary could be so creative, technical and spectacular?
That's the premise behind "Clipped," a new Discovery Plus show in which actor Michael Urie hosts top topiary artists and designers as they attempt to meticulously groom shrubbery, plants and flowers into ornamental shapes.
And it turns out a top botanical artist is right here in our backyard.
Meghan Petricka of Eden Prairie was chosen as one of seven contestants for the series debut.
To be crowned Clipped Champion and win $50,000, contestants must dazzle and delight lead judge Martha Stewart, landscape designer Fernando Wong and garden expert Chris Lambton. Challenges include creating well-sculpted carousel figurines, mini-golf stations and more.
The show is currently available on Discovery Plus, but will air on HGTV starting Aug. 14. (Note that because the show is already streaming on Discovery Plus, who wins can pop up in a Google search. So consider yourself warned to stay away from online searches if you want to steer clear of spoilers.)
We talked with Petricka — whose numerous botanical designs can be spotted locally and around the country — on how she got her start, what it was like being on the show and more.
And now that shrubbery sculpting season is at its height, Petricka also shares top tips for any beginner wanting to try their hand at topiary art.
Q: How did you get your start in topiary art?
A: I went to school for graphic design and visual arts, and I kind of translated my design background into designing with plants. In the past eight or so years, I've been working with large-scale green-wall projects, rooftop balconies and specializing in artificial and live plant materials — anywhere you can incorporate greenery, whether it's an office or someone's patio.
Q: Where can people find some of your work?
A: In downtown St. Paul, I designed the living green wall in the corporate office of the TPT, Channel 2 building. In addition to small corporate projects throughout the metro area, I've done projects such as the High Street Place food hall in Boston. To date, that's one of my proudest achievements. It's a massive green wall with a couple of hundred individual panels to adorn this cafeteria space between tall corporate buildings.
Q: What made you apply for the show?
A: I was referred to the show from a firm in New York that was familiar with my work. They were looking for contestants who would be a good fit. They gave me a call and my life changed forever.
Q: What was it like being on the show?
A: The show was filmed at the Lyndhurst mansion in Tarrytown, New York. It's such a beautiful, historical property. As someone who specializes in artificial plant material, jumping into this, I was having cold feet and massive intimidation.
One of the biggest highlights was definitely meeting the judges. Martha Stewart is an icon and I'm a huge fan. To share the same space with her was so surreal and to have the opportunity for her to look at your work and get her feedback. She's herself, she doesn't try to be anyone else. She's direct and she's hilarious. She has the best one-liners.
And to have folks like Fernando and Chris who have their own great achievements in the landscape world — to get their feedback is something I'll always remember.
Q: With so many reality competition shows out there, why should someone watch "Clipped"?
A: When it comes to plants, the sky's the limit and you can create something from nothing. I hope when folks watch it, they'll see things that we make and just get inspired and give [topiary art] a shot.
You make mistakes and that's how you learn and that's important as long as you're trying new things.
Q: You had a unique go-to topiary tool that you used in the competition. Tell us more about it.
A: My secret tool is a handheld hog ringer. It's a little tool that's like a stapler except in the shape of small metal rings. It's used in connecting chicken wire fencing but can be used to tie other materials together instead of zip tying things. It helps me breeze through things. It's my saving grace.
Q: You revealed in one episode that you're deaf in one ear but that you consider it to be a gift. How so?
A: I was born deaf in my left ear due to a defect in my cochlea that transmits vibrations to the nerve impulses sent to the brain. My parents discovered my hearing loss when I was 3 ½ years old. They were very concerned it would be a huge setback for me not only with learning and development but also in social settings. I never saw it as a setback. It's made me a truly visual person. It's made me stronger in visual arts because I see the world with my eyes first and foremost.
Q: What's next for you?
A: In addition to managing projects for homeowners, businesses and associations, my husband, who is a welder by trade, and I have started a company called La Vida Verde (Lvvllc.com) in which we care for over 100 tropical plants and oversee the propagation of hundreds of others. It's a resource for community gardens. We host workshops and we consult in design and fabrication.
The show has definitely given me a platform where I can reach a lot more folks. My dad always said that if you have knowledge and things to share that it's your responsibility to share it.
Nancy Ngo • 612-673-4892
Topiary tips for beginners
Want to give topiary a try? Use these tips from Meghan Petricka of HGTV's "Clipped."
Get a good start: In topiary, you're trimming live shrubbery to get it to the shape you want. You want to start with a good piece of plant material. Boxwood and cedar shrubs work really well.
Sketch your design: "Sketching things out and understanding scale and portion is going to be your biggest key to success," said Petricka. "I think that's what helps me a lot in understanding the fabrication and construction of a piece."
Trim a little bit at a time: Start slowly, trimming just a bit at a time to make the shape you want, then trim more as you go. As you work, look at your topiary from different angles. "And remember, it's OK to make mistakes," said Petricka. "The most important thing is to have fun with it."