Thanks to its versatility, boxwood can fit into any landscape, whether a formal or casual design. In winter’s sparse garden, this shrub’s bold shape, vibrant green color and air of old-world formality can dominate the scene. In summer, when the garden is in full bloom, it blends into the lushness, providing shape and structure. There are about 90 species and more than 365 different kinds of boxwood. They vary tremendously in size, shape, leaf characteristics, growth rates and hardiness. The secret to working with these evergreens is in choosing the varieties that best fit the growing conditions where you are creating your landscape.
The varieties below can be planted in November even at winter’s arrival, and most are available here at Watters Garden Center. Here are our top picks and some ways to use them:
Boxwoods take well to shearing, which makes them likely candidates for hedges. They are suitable for defining different spaces in the garden, as a border along a property line, or for a tidy foundation cover-up.
Proper spacing is easy to calculate when a tight hedge is desired. Read the plant’s tag and space plants at half their suggested mature width. They will fill in exactly the way you want. Here are three of the hardiest mountain varieties ready for planting now:
Winter Gem Boxwood
Variegated English Boxwood
Green Mountain Boxwood
Edgers and Low Hedges
Gardeners have been clipping boxwood shrubs into tight formations since 4,000 B.C., when some Egyptians picked up a pair of shears and went to work. From parterres and knot gardens to defined borders along walkways or beds, low-growing boxwoods such as these three varieties lend themselves to a structured look:
Dwarf English Boxwood
Morris Midget Boxwood
Wee Willie Boxwood
Enhance your front door area with a single boxwood or with several of these shapely plants. Use them to define corners in a border or add to billowing borders for structure. These cultivars make it easy:
Chicagoland Green Boxwood
Green Velvet Boxwood
Select taller varieties for swooping spiral or tiered ball topiary forms. Smaller varieties can be sheared into whatever shape you fancy, from a classic orb to whimsical whatever. Take clippers and shape these varieties:
Green Tower Boxwood
Green Mountain Boxwood
Golden Triumph Boxwood
Containers and Raised beds
Almost all boxwoods are candidates for containers because they look just as good in January as they do in June. Choose a fast-draining pot that is at least as wide and tall as the plant itself, and preferably bigger. The larger the container, the more soil it holds, and the less often you have to water. This one’s a great container candidate:
Petite Pillar Dwarf Boxwood
Keeping Boxwoods Happy
Provide Excellent Drainage
Boxwoods are highly adaptable to various soil types, including average or poor soils and acidic or alkaline conditions. Boxwoods can’t take standing water and heavy wet soil, which can lead to root rot. Prevent this problem by amending your garden soil to a 50% blend of Watters Premium Mulch and native garden soil; then plant on a slight mound in the yard. For containers and raised beds, plant directly into Watters Potting Soil.
Keeping Them Clean
When a boxwood is sheared to produce denser outer foliage, it’s important to clean dead leaves out of the middle of the plant. Prune back all dying branches to healthy wood, remove all debris from the center of the plant, and thin out some of the outside growth so air and light can reach into a healthy center.
Protecting Them in Winter
Boxwoods thrive in either full sun or light shade. But if exposed to extreme winds and full sun, boxwoods can struggle the first years in a garden, especially in winter. These conditions are especially common on mountain ridgelines. Protect boxwoods by keeping them vigorous and healthy; water as needed and apply a fresh layer of mulch in fall to help prevent winter damage. Spray with Watters’ Wilt Stop to withstand extreme exposure.
Keeping Them Fed
Apply Watters 7-4-4 All Purpose Food in spring, summer and fall for the greenest plants. Gardeners who plan around holidays use Easter, Independence Day and Halloween as reminders to feed their healthy boxwoods.
Until next issue, I’ll be here at Watters Garden Center helping locals design better winter gardens. QCBN
By Ken Lain
Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his website at WattersGardenCenter.com or FB.com/WattersGardenCenter.