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 90+ species and over 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 mountain conditions where you are creating your landscape.
The varieties below can be planted in February through early spring, and most are available here at Watters Garden Center. Here are our top picks and some ways to use them.
Hedges – Boxwood 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:
Edgers and low hedges – Gardeners have been clipping boxwood shrubs into tight formations since 4,000 BC when some Egyptian picked up a pair of shears and went to work. From parterres and knot gardens to defined borders along walkways or beds, low-growing boxwood such as these three varieties lend themselves to a structured look:
Green Accents – 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:
Topiary – 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:
Containers and Raised beds – Almost all boxwood are candidates for containers because they look just as good in February as they do in Summer. 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:
Keeping Boxwood Happy
Provide excellent drainage – Boxwood are highly adaptable to various soil types, including average or poor soils and acidic or alkaline conditions. Boxwood can’t take standing water and heavy wet soil, which leads 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.
Keep 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. In late winter, 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.
Sun Exposure – Boxwood thrives in either full sun or light shade. But if exposed to extreme winds and full sun, boxwood can struggle the first years in a garden. These conditions are especially common on mountain ridge-lines. Protect boxwood by keeping them vigorous and healthy; water as needed and apply a fresh layer of mulch over the roots to help prevent winter damage. Spray with Watters’ Wilt Stop’ to withstand extreme exposure.
Fertilizing – 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 boxwood.
Garden Alert – Take advantage of the weather this week and fertilize fruit trees and ALL spring bloomers with Watters Fruit & Vegetable Food. I know this locally sourced plant food was mentioned in last week’s Soil Prep article, but this is the perfect storm for better fruit, berry, and grape harvest. My Lilacs and spring-blooming Purple plum, Redbud, and Crabapples received the same food this week. This special formula is loaded with calcium for larger, sweeting fruits this year. Apply now and hope for even more snow!
Free Garden Class – Why January is the Best Month to Plant Wildflowers. Truly wild seed needs to be planted in winter and this week’s snow is absolutely ideal for starting a new patch of your own. Join us at this week’s free garden class, January 30 @ 9:30 am for all the details here at Watters Garden Center.
Until next issue, I’ll be here at Watters Garden Center helping locals design better winter gardens.