Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Gentleman in the Garden

Maybe I've marinated my brain in one too many Jane Austen novels, but I do love a bit of old English romance in the garden.  And in my mind, no garden is complete without the formal touch of Boxwood.
Quietly regal with untarnished etiquette, Boxwood is the gentleman in the garden.  His simple lines and quiet simplicity set off all the flowering plants as they twirl their way through the seasons.

Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) is a broadleaf evergreen, which is to say, it looks green and lovely in the winter without the prickles of a juniper, yew or pine.  Boxwood is the golden boy for the Bloomin' Calendar (see previous entry).  Although he offers no noticeable blooms, he literally has 4-season appeal.  I like him as much in June as I do in January.  The glossy, oval leaves - which are deep green on the top and light green on the bottom - provide the clean lines which keep this gentleman so pristine.

Boxwood is easily sheered into a hedge, creating an evergreen backdrop or line.    I personally enjoy pruning them separately, unleashing my inner 'beautician' on each one with my trusty, rusty pruners.

If you decide that your garden could use the refined touch of Boxwood, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1.  Boxwood comes in many different varieties.  My favorite is 'Winter Gem', and I can usually pick it up at Lowe's for $6.  This, of course, is a small plant.  Large plants can run anywhere from $25-$50.  That's just not in my budget, but it may be in yours.  Some varieties are less hardy, so take my advice or do your homework.  'Green Mountain' is a pyramidal selection which would make a nice replacement for Dwarf Alberta Spruce or a pyramidal Juniper.  However, Spruce and Juniper are hardier, which brings me to point #2.

2.  Boxwood needs protection.  Our house is situated on the edge of a proposed wind farm in Kankakee county.  There is nothing blocking my front porch from the wind that barrels over these empty cornfields in January.  Our porch faces west and wraps around to the north.  And I can tell you from experience, boxwood flourish on the north side and perish on the west.  For the record, I have seen boxwood that survive in a south/western exposure, but I want you to realize that planting them there is a risky investment.        

Now, I know there are some people who will wrap less hardy plants in burlap for the winter.  Burlap does not fall anywhere into my 4-season appeal palate.  If a plant isn't hardy enough for a spot, find something that is.  I'd rather look at sticks in the winter than a make-shift burlap box.  You can try applying a product called Wilt-Pruf to your boxwood in the fall.  This helps prevent dessication, a cause of winter kill.

Don't let my cautionary warning keep you from trying boxwood.  If you have a north or eastern location or a protected garden, sock a row of them in there.  You won't regret it.  

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