Boxwood, always the elegant one

Green all year long, boxwood draws back to the elegance of French gardens. Along edges to organize the garden, or sculpted as as a standalone shape, it is currently making a comeback.

For a time reserved to the topiary ornaments of castles, boxwood now plays a part in all possible settings. It is often grown in pots, trimmed into clear-cut balls that decorate balconies of city-dwellers craving for greenery. One must state the facts: on top of staying radiant all year round, boxwood resists air pollution very well.

In a garden, it can mark the edges of walkways, surround flower beds and vegetable patches, and even dance along a lawn shaped in varied silhouettes: ball, pyramid, obelisk, spiral… It grows beautifully paired with heirloom rose trees, clematis, honeysuckles and light-blooming flowers like lavender.

Trying Topiary

What makes boxwood so well suited to topiary creations is its dense evergreen foliage and its slow growth, around 4 inches (10 cm) a year.  This slow growth explains why shaped boxwood is often so expensive: 5 years are needed to produce a ball and up to 10 for a pyramid!

Unless you are very patient, it makes sense to splurge for a boxwood plant that is already a few years old and well on its way to looking like the shape you want. That way, all you’ll have to do is a bit of maintenance pruning at the end of winter and summer. On a balcony, remember to rotate the pot regularly for even growth.

If you’re looking to sculpt your own specimen yourself, take note that a round ball is easier to trim than a straight line. Ready a template from a piece of cardboard with a half-circle cut in it, or rods and string, to guide your shears. If you’re ready for a more challenging eccentric shape, you can find animal-shaped mesh wire that you can slide your boxwood in, cutting whatever sticks out.

Proper care for boxwood

Boxwood does well in any type of soil, as long as it drains well. Set it up in spring or fall, part sun, and mulch in summer. If it marks a low-lying edge hedge, plant your boxwood specimens near one another, about 8 inches (20 cm) space between them, to cover the entire line even though their growth is slow.

In pots, plant it in a blend of one part garden soil, one part soil mix and one part sand. Water regularly and add fertilizer in spring.

Laure Hamann

Image credits: Jardiland, La Plante du Mois