Boxwood Shrubs that Stay Green in Winter
Few plants rival boxwood shrubs for winter color. Boxwoods are truly a classic evergreen shrub that has been a favorite of American gardeners for hundreds of years. The dark green leaves of boxwoods add permanence to the garden and can be kept trimmed into hedges and privacy screens.
The best part about boxwoods is they are deer-resistant. If you live in an area of high deer pressure you can safely use boxwoods in your garden.
How to use Boxwoods in the Garden:
Boxwoods are one of the few evergreen shrubs that actually like to be pruned with hedge trimmers. Boxwoods adapt well to pruning and are often seen trimmed into "designer" shape. Boxwood Buxus shrubs are generally considered slow-growing evergreens by all accounts. This is in your favor if you prefer a tidy well-trimmed hedge or foundation planting.
In most cases, a trim in late spring after the spring growth has hardened off will be enough to keep the boxwood looking tidy. This is a good point to keep in mind when you are trying to increase the size of your boxwood. When your boxwood hedge reaches the size and shape you prefer it can be easily be kept at that height and width.
Using boxwoods in a Knot Garden:
Boxwoods have been used extensively in Knot Gardens dating back to medieval times in Europe. Knot gardens were carefully kept by gardeners and are still quite fashionable in the formal gardens of England and America. For those of you not sure what a knot garden is, a knot garden is designed to resemble a Celtic or Medieval knot.
Typically two or three different types of shrubs are used to represent the threads of the knot. Because boxwoods are easily kept trimmed they are frequently chosen for planting.
Boxwoods as Topiaries:
Boxwood shrubs can be trimmed into just about any shape you can imagine. Taller Types can be trimmed into spirals or multi-tiered ball topiary shapes. Smaller varieties of boxwood can be sheared into whatever shape you prefer, from the classic orb to whimsical shapes including animals.
In Maryland, we are fortunate enough to have a wonderful public topiary garden. If you find yourself in Maryland be sure to visit Ladew Topiary Gardens for inspiration.
Using Boxwood Shrubs as a Walkway edging shrub:
Since Boxwoods take so well to trimming they are perfect for creating a border or edge along a walkway. They can be kept short and are easily kept from overgrowing onto the walkway. When planting boxwoods along a walkway divide the mature width in half and plant the shrub that far from the edge of the walkway. Most smaller varieties can be kept as small as one foot to 2 feet wide.
Using Boxwoods as a Privacy Hedges:
Larger Boxwood varieties make perfect tall evergreen privacy screens. Since they will keep their leaves all the way to the ground they won't have openings at the bottom. This is useful when trying to create a true privacy hedge. The larger varieties can also be allowed to grow quite wide which can also help to keep unwanted noise from your "Garden Room".
Using Boxwoods as foundation plants:
Boxwoods can be planted in front of houses to cover foundations or other unsightly fixtures such as gas or electric meters. Be particularly careful however not to plant the shrub too close to the structure as oftentimes in the full sun the heat radiating off the wall can damage the leaves of the boxwood.
Boxwoods planted in containers:
Boxwoods thrive in pots or containers and only require weekly watering during hot weather and a feeding every year in mid to late spring.
Planting and growing Boxwoods:
Boxwoods prefer rich soils high in organic matter. Soil should be moist but not wet. Constantly wet soil will cause the leaves to turn yellow. Mulch the plants with a layer of hardwood mulch.
Most boxwoods prefer full sun to partly shaded exposures. If possible choose a location where the plants will have protection from the drying winter winds which can cause a condition called Winter Burn.
Boxwoods benefit from supplemental watering during periods of drought this can be accomplished with a soaker hose for long hedges. Soaker hoses can be placed under the mulch and kept out of view.
To protect your boxwoods from the drying winds you can spray the shrubs in the late fall with an anti-desiccant such as Wilt-pruf. Wilt pruf covers the leaves with a waxy-coating that slows the plant's ability to lose moisture from the leaves in areas of high winds. Some public gardens in the extreme northern areas wrap the boxwoods shrubs in burlap for the winter.
Feeding Boxwood shrubs can easily be accomplished using Espoma Plant-Tone. Simply sprinkle the recommended amount of Plant-Tone around the base of the plant and it will slowly feed the shrubs the perfect amount of nutrients. Boxwood shrubs are one of the few evergreen shrubs that do not prefer acidic soil so we do not recommend Espoma Holly-tone fertilizer.
Types of Boxwood Shrubs:
Buxus sempervirens: Often called American boxwood is a tall tried and true boxwood that grows up to 5 feet tall by 4 feet wide.
Buxus microphylla var. japonica: Japanese Boxwoods are cold-hardy and best used for small to medium-sized hedges. Popular varieties include:
- Wintergreen Boxwood: Grows up to 5 feet tall by 5 feet wide.
- Winter Gem Boxwood: Grows slightly smaller than Wintergreen only reaching 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.
- Baby Gem Boxwood: Is the "baby" of the family only reaching 3 feet by 3 feet at maturity.
Buxus sinica var. insularis: More commonly known as Korean boxwood. This genus is mostly represented by one cultivar Called Winter Gem Boxwood. It reaches a mature size of 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.
Buxus sempervirens suffruticosa: Dwarf English Boxwood is the smallest of the boxwood family and only reaches 1 to 2 feet tall by 1 to 2 feet wide when mature. Used extensively in knot gardens and as edger plants.
Green Mountain Boxwood: A Very cold hardy and stands up to heavy snowfall without damage. Green mountain grows in a pyramid shape up to 4 to 5 feet tall at maturity.
Green Velvet Boxwood: A very compact and dense boxwood shrub. Typically reaches up to 3 feet tall and up to 4 feet wide.
Golden Dream Boxwood: A variegated boxwood with gorgeous dark green leaves surrounded by a bright golden Margins. Stays small at 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide.
In closing, if you're searching for a deer-resistant evergreen hedge or just need a little year-round privacy screen Boxwoods have served this purpose for thousands of years. They've stood the test of time and continue to dazzle the senses, even in winter.
Until next time See you in the garden,