As a garden designer I have a list of “go to plants” in my head whenever I sit down and begin a planting plan. The plant list varies from garden to garden. One list may be suitable for a formal garden, another for a cottage garden and yet another for a modern garden. Each plant on the list encompasses the style and feeling I want the garden to have. However, there is one plant that is common to many garden styles and that is the Boxwood (Buxus sp.)
Over the years, boxwood has fallen in and out of favor, but with increased deer browsing and concerns over water use, Boxwood are once again gaining popularity. They are evergreen, deer resistant and drought tolerant. Boxwoods are easy to maintain, most require little pruning, will grow in sun or shade and are long lived. In addition, Boxwoods are versatile and come in many sizes, shapes and growth rate.
Boxwoods are indispensable in a formal garden. They add a timeless feel of elegance to the garden. Picture a pair of columnar Green Tower Boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens ‘Monrue’) flanking a garden gate or set in a row along the garden border.
In designing a cottage garden, Boxwood can be used to create a low border surrounding perennials. They will add order to the beds during the peak summer flowering season and interest during the quite winter season. Nothing reads cottage garden like foxgloves, roses and lavender towering and spilling over a Boxwood border. One wonderful Boxwood for the cottage garden is Green Beauty Boxwood (Buxus microphylla var. joponica ‘Green Beauty’).
One of the best uses of Boxwood is in the modern garden. Here the Boxwood can be the star of the minimally planted modern garden. Shearing the Boxwood into geometric spheres or cubes both in the ground or in pots will give the clean lined garden a modern sculptural feel. True Dwarf Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’) is a great candidate for shearing into modern geometric shapes.
There are many varieties and cultivars of Boxwood available today and many garden designers are rediscovering Boxwood, the backbone of formal gardens for centuries.