Boxwoods: Maintaining Structure in Your Garden
Boxwood hedges might look formal, but they are a workhorse in the garden. The evergreens can define areas and be the frame of the garden while maintaining their glossy green leaves throughout the year.
The American Boxwood can reach up to twenty feet high, although very slowly, but normally a boxwood hovers around five feet tall. Japanese Boxwoods grow more compactly and stay about three feet high—perfect for edging and for growing in containers. Both require well-draining soil in a semi-shaded location.
Now, however, is not the season to incorporate boxwoods into the garden; do that in the fall or spring. Now is the time to care for the ones that are already settled in.
Boxwoods don’t have be flat-topped hedges. Their slow-growth pattern allows you to create shapes through shearing and pruning. To maintain a compact, healthy boxwood, you need to remove the flush of new growth for the first couple seasons after planting—this encourages branch development. Use loppers for the thicker growth and hand-pruners for close-up trimming. Remember that when shaping, less is more. Take a step back after every snip to make sure you are following the design you set out to accomplish.
Pruning isn’t just about maintaining a boxwood’s shape. New growth often causes boxwoods to become too dense for their own good; the interior struggles to get enough sunlight to survive and the poor air circulation encourages fungal infections. When pruning, remove any diseased, dead, or dying branches and don’t neglect the inner branches. Finish up by making small adjustments here and there to retain the proper shape.
If you are interested in doubling your boxwood, the summer months are the perfect time to establish a cutting. To do so, take a six-inch-long cutting and plant in a container of sandy soil. Keep it moist and provide it with indirect sunlight. In the fall, after a solid root system has developed, transplant into the garden.
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