Boxwood or Box (Buxus sempervirens) is a slow growing hardy native evergreen hedging plant with a lightly fragrant foliage. Boxwood or Box flowers are yellow, and appear in the late spring. The growth habit is very dense, with small glossy dark green leaves. This makes it an ideal candidate for low formal hedges. It is suitable in any soil, in particular well drained in partial shade.
Generally for planting of Box, planting distances are very much a matter of choice - for bare root plants, 3 plants per metre is adequate, 5 is good, 7 in a double staggered row will give a dense hedge quicker. Generally, smaller plants should be planted at higher density. Pot grown should be planted at 4 per metre in a single row or 6 per metre in a staggered row but particularly with this species you could consider planting more densely. This is of course dependent on the size of plant you purchase, and how instant you would like your hedge to be!
The key to a good quality Box hedge is all down to preparation. To prepare the ground well you will help it in the long term, by aiding the plants to set firm foundations. Start by digging the ground over, removing weeds, stones and old roots etc, then add plenty of well rotted compost or horse or farmyard manure. Adding a good amount of good organic matter is one of the secrets of a healthy box hedge. If you incorporate this as a regular annual process, your Box should reward you for years to come. (for further information on care/feeding – please see the section below).
The ideal time to clip Box is around the first week of June.The most important thing to check before trimming is that the new growth from the current season, (that starts off soft and light green) has begun to turn more mature and firmer before it is trimmed. A further trim in early autumn if necessary can tidy the plants up for the winter months.
As a rule of thumb, Box should never be trimmed in hot sunlight; otherwise the cut surfaces may scorch and look unsightly. A recommended way to trim is to keep the blade of the shears parallel to the edge of the hedge surface.Topiary shears are ideal for shaped Buxus, whereas normal shears manual or mechanical can be used for formal hedge trimming.
Any plant in a container is wholly reliant on you for all of its essentials. You need to water evenly and regularly when required to ensure your plant has all of the moisture and nutrients it needs to thrive. You cannot rely on rainfall, as very little rainfall will reach the roots due to the dense habit and nature of most topiary.
Watering frequency is an art form in itself, too little or too much creates stress in the plant, and leaves them more susceptible to disease. A recommendation is to water regularly when the containered compost is starting to dry; a drier compost can induce more adventitious rooting and hence a healthier plant. The general consensus is more water is required through the plants growing period, and less through the plants dormant phase.
In the ground:
If a Box plant or hedge has just been planted, it will require regular watering in until the root system has sufficiently established to support the plant. Establishment usually takes 1-2 growth seasons. It would certainly be prudent keep an eye on development in the second year in case there is further establishment to do.
Again these plants are reliant on you for all of their essentials. When it comes to feeding; the easiest method is to add a controlled release fertiliser such as Osmacote on an annual basis, just before the growing period begins.
There are Tell-tale signs of a nutrient problem within your Box; it will only grow very slowly and the leaves will tend to become coppery brown, or will develop cream or yellow tips and margins. This is when extra care and attention is critical! Once good growing conditions are restored, the leaves will become uniform green again within month or two at the most.
Grown in the ground:
Box plants either hedging or topiary that are grown in reasonable garden soil should not require extra feeding. However in sandy, chalky or thin soils, it is beneficial to incorporate well-rotted organic matter that will help moisture retention in the soil. Organic material will also encourage beneficial bacteria that may help prevent the invasion of fungal attacks. An application of a shrub fertiliser in spring and autumn will also give the plant a welcome top up of essential nutrients.
Average growth per year:
Box grows on average between 5-15cm per year, and the growth gradually slows as the plant matures. The plants are also affected by factors outside of their genetic habit; for example by differing soil and weather conditions having either a beneficial or detrimental effect on plant growth and longevity.
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