Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Whenever I am asked for recommendations for evergreen gardening plants, I invariably advise people to start with the ubiquitous Box plant. Box, or "Buxus" is a genus of about 70 species in the family "Buxaceae" - Common names include box (majority of English-speaking countries) or boxwood (North America).
Box plants are native to western and southern Europe, southwest, southern and eastern Asia, Africa, Madagascar, northernmost South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean, with the majority of species tropical or subtropical; only the European and some Asian species are frost-tolerant. Centres of diversity occur in Cuba (about 30 species), China (17 species) and Madagascar (9 species).
They are slow-growing evergreen shrubs and small trees, growing to 2-12 m (rarely 15 m) tall.
The leaves are opposed, rounded to lanceolate, and leathery; they are small in most species, typically 1.5-5 cm long and 0.3-2.5 cm broad, but up to 11 cm long and 5 cm broad in some species. The flowers are small and yellow-green, monoecious with both sexes present on a plant. The fruit is a small capsule 0.5-1.5 cm long (to 3 cm in B. macrocarpa), containing several small seeds.
Box is a slow-growing and very low maintenance wintergreen shrub which is ideal for Evergreen Gardening. Box is most suitable to a clipped hedge or for shaping, and can easily be put around flower beds such as roses. It can be used as a wintergreen shrub potted in containers. In summer it can be planted alongside white annuals for example or in winter alongside cyclamen. Box needs very little attention and is very easy to grow.
Because of its long life cycle, Box Shrubs are often used in Ornamental Gardens where the plant can be shaped and trained in amazing ways and they grow in most soil conditions. The plant tends to do better in shaded areas but needs support in Winter months when cold winds can turn the leaves to a bronze colour. Best to grow Box where exposure to wind is not a problem.
Similarly in Summer, the shallow rooted plant will need protection from the Sun. Some bark mulch will do the trick here.
If planting a box hedge ensure the plants are well watered until they become established. They do require well drained soil but can be allowed to dry out a bit between watering. Usually, a trimming once a year is sufficient to keep the hedge looking neat and crisp but sometimes a second pruning is necessary.
If you are looking to start evergreen gardening, then this would be my recommendation for the first step