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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 the Garden Home Retreat.

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.