Tag: boxwood

Boxwoods Make Good Garden Bones

I’ve got a thing for boxwood. I always have. They’re such a classic shrub, and there are perfect for the ferme ornee style of Moss Mountain Farm.

We just have to have them there because they would have been a part of the landscape in 1830.  Actually, boxwoods have been used in gardens, well, since Roman times and before. Two of the largest boxwoods we’ve planted at the Retreat were rescued from a farm where a road or bypass was being put in. I’m really excited about being able to preserve and in a way recycle the hundred-year-old shrubs.  We also saved a few that are 40 to 50 years old. All the rescued boxwoods are all Buxus sempervirens. Sempervirens is Latin for evergreen.

In addition to my adopted boxwoods there is a ring of ‘Green Velvet’ boxwood, a cross between Buxus sempervirens and Buxus microphylla. This boxwood has proven to be a little more cold-hardy and a little more disease resistant.  In the center of that ring I have peonies planted, and in the spring they are absolutely gorgeous.

Now, in my town garden, I have planted almost exclusively Buxus microphylla.  This species is from Asia and faster growing than the B. sempervirens.

Boxwoods are a versatile shrub that are an integral part of the gardens I design.  They are the perfect choice for developing the bones of a garden.

For instance, in one client’s garden we used boxwoods to create an allee in a garden room with hedge walls on each side.  At the end of the allee are some holly trees and a little fountain. Very simple but effective.

I also like to use boxwood simply as punctuation marks, ways of framing or dotting the outside of a house.  Just by assigning them on the corners or by steps, you can create focus or accent on certain areas.

Now, since boxwood will take the knife, or they will shear very well, they’re excellent for creating patterns.  There is an historic 1840s house in my neighborhood that has parterres of boxwood on either side of the front walk.  The pattern ushers the guests forward toward the front door while simultaneously slowing them down to take in the details of the garden.

In my garden I use boxwoods to create borders, walls around the rondel, and a low border in the fountain garden, which have gotten a little too tall. This year I’ll cut them down to about half size, and they’ll flush with new growth in the spring.

Boxwoods can live for a long time virtually carefree as long as they are planted properly. They should have very good drainage to prevent wet feet.  A sign of bad drainage is discoloration in the leaves.  They’ll ultimately die if the problem is severe.

When you plant boxwoods, make sure you plant them just a little high, just a tad above ground level.  They don’t like a lot of mulch or certainly soil up around the trunk or crowns.

Ease of care and a variety of applications are two reasons why this plant has been a mainstay in gardens for hundreds of years.

Boxwoods for Northern Climates

I grew up in the South where I loved the traditional boxwood and white dogwood. Now Montana is my home where I cherish the red twig dogwood and the many wonderful plants indigenous to the area. I’m in the process of restoring a late 1800s log cabin and yearn to see boxwood. Are there any that would survive in zone 4? I’d be thrilled to have just 1 or 2 in a microclimate, and I certainly would be willing to try, even if it meant bringing them inside on days like today (23 below). Please let me know if you have a moment. Thanks for your help. Barrie

My garden would not be complete without boxwoods. I use them to create living walls, punctuate entries and as focal points and their bright green foliage pops against the gray winter landscape. They are generally only hardy in zones 6 – 9, but there are some varieties that just might work for you.

Korean Littleleaf Boxwood (Buxus microphylla var koreana) is an extremely hardy variety. It is probably the best choice for northern areas to zone 4 and has a record of surviving down to -20 to -25 degrees F. The habit is somewhat loose and open and it grows twice as wide as it is high. The foliage turns bronze in the winter months.

If the winter bronze color is an issue, there are some boxwood varieties that may stay greener for you. Certain crosses between var koreana and sempervirens (Buxus microphylla var koreana X Buxus sempervirens) that were introduced in Canada reportedly hold their green color better in the winter. ‘Green Gem’, ‘Green Mountain’, ‘Green Mound’, and ‘Green Velvet’ are some of the variety names. Keep in mind that they may not be as cold hardy at the Korean Littleleaf Boxwood. Their hardiness wavers between zone 4 and zone 5.

Two final varieties to check out are Chicagoland Green Boxwood (Buxus ‘Glencoe’) and Northern Charm Boxwood (Buxus ‘Wilson’).

Pruning Boxwoods

Is it too late to trim boxwoods? I saw your report on trimming and shaping shrubs and wondered when was the best time.

No, it is not too late to trim your boxwoods. I prune my boxwood hedge twice a year, once in the very early spring and again in late summer. Believe it or not, the hedge thrives from this kind of treatment.

Boxwoods are a broad-leafed evergreen – just like hollies, azaleas and rhododendrons. They’re aptly named because they’re green throughout the year and the leaves are broad as opposed to needle-like – as with evergreens such as spruce, pine or juniper.

I just remove the tall radical stems, and everywhere I make a cut, several buds will appear. They’ll grow into stems and this is how the plant eventually becomes thicker and denser.

Broad-leafed evergreens have dormant buds on their stems down close to the trunk. So when you cut back a broad-leafed evergreen, the dormant buds are activated.

On the other hand, if you’re pruning a needle type evergreen, such as Leyland cypress, you never want to cut them all the way back to the trunk or to a bare stem because they can’t recover. All of their dormant buds are in the green foliage.

For more on boxwoods, check out the video below!