Boxwood have been used as trimmed hedges as far back as 4,000 BC, in the gardens of Roman villas. Boxwood have been used in Italy, France, Germany and England--all throughout Europe because it makes incredible clipped hedges. Boxwood remain wildly popular today. Their popularity comes from the innate ability to train this plant into many different forms. They were used to create English knot gardens, topiaries, creating pieces of sculpture in the landscape. Boxwood can be easily sheared in to tight forms. The small, rounded leaves are evergreen and remain on the plant year round.
How to Use Boxwood in the Landscape
Not only do Boxwood make classic low hedges--governing direction and movement through the landscape with the structure they bring--they do so year round because they remain green year round.
Taller growing selections make outstanding screening plants, create outdoor garden spaces, and define areas beautifully – much nicer to look at than a fence.
Foundations scream for Boxwood and can be allowed to grow untrimmed allowing new growth to remain on the plant. It’s a unique look-soft and feathery. Others like to shear their boxwood into rounded forms or low hedges.
Using boxwood as hedges, it is important to keep the top of the plants a bit more narrow and wider on the bottom. The reason for keeping hedges a bit wider at the bottom is so the foliage remains healthy and in place right to the ground. If the top is wider than the bottom, the foliage can get shaded out and drop leaves and could become leggy at the bottom. Upright growing boxwood make great vertical accents or corner anchors, again left natural and un-sheared for a softer more natural look or sheared into pyramids or columns.
Whether they are used as a backdrop, accents or used in groups in varying sizes for an interesting look, gardens are usually incomplete without boxwoods. They are many times used as container plants sheared into spirals and pom poms, pyramids or spheres. Boxwood are easily trained and pruned into most any shape.
Improved Varieties – It’s Not Just English Boxwood Anymore
There are many different species of Boxwood. Some of these plants grow slowly and stay smaller, while others are much more robust. There are leaf color and size variations and certainly hardiness factors to consider as well. Nature Hills offers many different hybrids including these variations. Many people ask us for Dwarf English Boxwood not realizing that many new options exist. Many of these newer selections take the best attributes of these varieties and roll them into some of these other selections. The important thing to do is look at the mature size of the plant and the hardiness zone it will be grown in. Then use the plants that fit into your landscape.
Pruning Your Boxwood Plants is Simple
Light pruning can be done at any time of the year. In general, it is best not to do too much pruning late in the fall of the year. Boxwood put on a big flush of new growth in spring, and a lighter flush later in the summer.
The more natural pruning method is to use a hand pruner to hand select out the longest shoots and simply snip them back into the body of the plant--leaving the nice feathery growth in place. It is an attractive, soft look. For the sheared hedges, globes, spirals, pom poms or any sheared forms it is best to remove the first flush of growth keeping the formal look of your plants. A light clean up may be necessary later in the summer. Try and blow or rake off all of the trimmings and remove them from the plants to keep their dark, clean look. Older plants that have been sheared for many years may need to be thinned out to keep the plants healthy. They can become too dense and may appreciate more air circulation.
Planting Tips for Boxwood
Boxwood are shallow rooted plants that love having a few inches of organic mulch over the roots to keep in moisture and offer them cooler soil temperatures during the heat. They do require soil that is well drained. Provide even moisture to establish new plantings in well-drained soil, and mulch over the shallow roots will ensure you have beautiful plants. Boxwood is one of the few plants that is truly deer resistant.
In warmer climates, it is a good idea to have some protection from the hot afternoon sun. Part sun is going to be ideal for healthy, vigorous Boxwood. In colder climates, keep the plant out of areas that might be exposed to drying winter winds to prevent winter burn. Boxwood grown in cooler areas can be successfully grown in full sun or part shade. We have also seen Boxwood used in areas that do eventually develop more shade and they continue to perform quite well.
There is a place in your yard for Boxwood. They remain incredibly popular because they are one of the most handsome plants in the landscape.