Common Boxwood Shrub Planting and Care

Common Boxwood Shrub Planting and Care

BUXUS — Boxwood (Bux’us).

Evergreen trees and shrubs, found wild in the temperate parts of Europe and Asia, which belong to the Box family, Buxaceae. They are of neat habit of growth and have small, leathery leaves. The Box has no value as a flowering shrub because its blooms are small and dingy in color; but turners and engravers make considerable use of the close-grained compact and heavy, yellowish wood, which is well known under the name of Box. Buxus is the ancient Latin name. These trees and shrubs are also known by the common name of Boxwood.

Because of their handsome appearance and beautiful foliage, the common Box and the edging Box are greatly valued as garden ornamentals and are much planted in Virginia and other parts of the upper South. In sheltered locations they are hardy as far north as southern New York and southern New England. In such comparatively cold climates it is advisable to provide winter protection by building a ventilated wooden boxlike structure over the bushes, or a frame of wood to which burlap is fastened. Exposure to strong winter sunshine or cold winds is especially likely to be harmful.

The various kinds of Buxus thrive in almost any good garden soil, but are particularly useful for planting on limestone ground. They are grown as small trees, bushes, hedges, dwarf bordering for beds and paths, and for clipping for topiary work. Their great value lies in the evergreen leaves which though dark in color are not of depressing appearance. They thrive in partial shade and in sun.

When to Plant and Prune. When grown as hedges or for topiary work, any necessary clipping is carried out during April or May. Naturally grown plants require very little pruning; but if any is needed it should be done in May. Planting is carried out in spring or early fall.

When to Take Cuttings. In July, cuttings of short young shoots are dibbled in a bed of sandy soil in a cold frame, or in pots placed out of doors and covered with a bell jar, or plunged in a frame. Seeds are sown as soon as ripe in flats placed in a cold frame until germination takes place, while the dwarf edging variety is increased by division in late summer or spring.

For Clipped Trees or Topiary. The small-leaved kinds of the common Box, Buxus sempervirens, are best for use as clipped trees or topiary. Young, healthy, well-grown plants are chosen, and are first cut into the approximate outline of the objects to be represented. Where objects of simple outline are desired, constant clipping of the young shoots soon brings about the desired effect, but in the case of more ornate subjects, branches have to be clipped and trained and sometimes the result is not achieved for many years. When such plants are confined in tubs or pots frequent feeding is necessary to keep them healthy.

The Common Box. Buxus sempervirens, the common Box, grows wild through Europe into Asia. There are many forms, some of stiff, erect habit, others with semipendent branches; the latter are the most effective for garden decoration.

Of the many named varieties the best are elegantissima, with narrow leaves edged with white; aurea pendula, with weeping branches and yellow and cream-colored leaves; Handsworthii, a dense bushy plant with large leaves; myrtifolia, a dwarf kind, about 2 ft. high, with small narrow leaves; pendula, a small tree, 15-20 ft. high, with weeping branchlets; rosmarinifolia, with narrow leaves; and rotundifolia, with broadly oval leaves.

Box for Edging. B. sempervirens suffruticosa, the Edging Box, is naturally dwarf and is kept to a height of a few inches by constant clipping. See Box, Edging.

The Hardiest Kinds Although not quite so handsome as the common Box and its varieties, Buxus microphylla and its varieties are distinctly hardier and better adapted for cultivation in cold climates.

B. microphylla is a bushy shrub that attains a maximum height of about 3 ft. Its foliage is lighter in color than that of the common Box. B. microphylla variety japonica is hardier, grows to a height of about 6 ft., is of looser branching habit and occurs in a number of distinct forms which in gardens are known under particular names. For instance there are: angustifolia, with narrow leaves; aurea, with yellowish leaves; latifolia, with broader leaves; and rotundifolia, with large, rounded, bluish-green leaves. B. microphylla variety koreana grows about 2 ft. high, has downy shoots and is the hardiest kind.

For Warmer Climates. B. Harlandii, a native of China, differs from B. microphylla in having downy shoots and in other minor characteristics. It is less hardy than B. microphylla and its varieties, but withstands warm summers better than either B. microphylla or B. sempervirens and so may be grown farther south.

B. balearica, a native of the Balearic Islands and Spain, is a slow-growing kind which, under favorable circumstances, attains the dimensions of a small tree. B. Wallichiana, from the Himalayas, grows to a height of about 30 ft. but is often much lower in cultivation. These two species are suitable for cultivation only in mild climates.

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