RYDE, UK - The menagerie at the front of David Edwards’ house includes a horse, a cat, a dinosaur and a rabbit. And he finds the giant collection surprisingly easy to maintain.

The retired tool hire businessman has spent the last 26 years becoming a master of topiary. The 70-year-old from Ryde, Isle of Wight, said his interest was first sparked by a neighbour’s horse.

He said: ‘In 1987 I moved to a house with many hedges and a large garden. ‘My son, Christopher, had taken up horse riding and I became fascinated with the shape and dimensions of horses. ‘Luckily a neighbour’s horse, Pampas, was prepared to model for me for the modest fee of a few carrots and I was able to attempt life-size topiary.’

The topiary horse was created by reshaping an existing hedge into the main body and head. Then the front legs were planted separately and grown to join into the body.

During the four years it took to create the horse it was suggested that the it needed a rider, so a man was grown, leaning against the opposite gatepost. The life-sized man, a watchful jockey, stands at the front of Mr Edwards’ house.

Since then, more pieces have appeared including a swan, cats, rabbits and a human face is currently being carved. But Mr Edwards says he is most proud of a 12ft-long triceratops which took six years of craft. He said: ‘The strange thing is that I initially started carving a cow - but then changed my mind halfway through its completion. ‘I’m glad that I changed my mind as the dinosaur is a lot more unique and people are amazed when they first see it.’

The plant that he uses is a Lonicera Nitida, which grows very quickly and is very tolerant and easy to root.

He added: ‘Topiary is a relaxing and rewarding pastime and everyone can do it. ‘The advantage of topiary over other types of sculpture is that, unlike carving wood or chiseling marble, if a bit too much is accidently lopped off, it will regrow next year.’