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Ward's Blog

A Little Bit About Boxwoods

Boxwood has been called "man's oldest garden ornamental.” It was first used as a decorative plant as early as 4,000 B. C. in Egypt, though evidence of the Genus “Buxus” has been found in fossils dating back 3.6 – 2.6 Million years ago. It’s believed to have been brought to North America in 1652 and is commonly associated with colonial architecture.

Much of its initial popularity as an ornamental shrub may be due to the steroidal alkaloids it contains. Every part of the plant is toxic and as a result deer and other animals avoid eating it. Boxwood is also very hardy and functions well both in landscapes and as a potted houseplant. The wood is dense, fine-grained and resists splitting and chipping. As a result, it has been used for woodcut and woodblock printing, chess pieces, Great Highland Bagpipes and, of course, decorative boxes. Many mid- to high-end instruments are still produced from species of Boxwood.

Today, there are about 90 species of Buxus and over 360 different cultivars, each with its own unique place in the garden. One of our favorites is the Green Velvet Boxwood. A very cold-hardy plant, it retains its dark green foliage throughout the year. The rounded, full-bodied nature provides color and structure in the garden, year-round.

Once mature, they’re 2 – 3’ diameter and require less maintenance due to its slow growing nature. Their shallow roots do require proper mulching to retain moisture, but little pruning is necessary unless being shaped into hedge or topiary. More frequent shearing is beneficial in the plant’s younger years to help develop shape and encourage denser growth and a more defined shape. It’s best to keep it light, though. Excessive shearing can encourage the plant to become too dense, leaving bare branches in the center. You can trim Boxwood almost any time of year, but its recommended to avoid pruning in Fall so as to not put new growth at risk from the cold before reaching maturity.


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