Take the Box

After my bargain Box buy last week, I’ve been potting on the plants and thinking about what to do with my new babies. It’s hard to find a single gorgeous garden that doesn’t feature Buxus sempervirens in one form or another. Clipped Box contrasts so beautifully with soft flower beds. It provides focal points and evergreen structure to a garden. It’s uses are many: edging, hedging, topiary, balls, cubes, pyramids, spirals…

Before I get too carried away,  Box blight is an alarming, incurable  problem, turning plants from lush green to dead brown in a matter of days. If Monty Don has a problem with it, us mere mortals have no hope. There are steps to take to mitigate the risk, all concerned with reducing damp, dense plants on which the two Box blight viruses thrive: only prune when there’s a dry week ahead; water from below not above, shape into curves not flat surfaces.  The ultimate precaution would be to grow other small leaved, clip-able bushes (see RHS suggestions for box alternatives.) However, at 16p a pop, I haven’t got much at stake. I’m prepared to gamble my pennies.

My initial idea is to create a lovely little box hedge around the symmetrical  Stream Garden beds. The design of the Stream Garden was influenced by Marylyn Abbott’s  jaw – droppingly lovely Topiarist Artisan garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2014, pictured  (x2) below, so the addition of the box hedge would be an obvious evolution.

Chelsea 14

The Topiarist Garden at West Green House, by Marylyn Abbott. Chelsea, 2014.  Box paired with white foxgloves, alliums, lupins and climbing hydrangea.

I investigated mini hedges, and here’s what I learned: keep pinching out the growing tips to keep them bushy; don’t clip them for as long of possible; plant out when they have reached 10 x 10 cm bushlets. Use a plumb line to plant them straight and plant at approx 30 cm intervals…. so that would mean I need a whopping 90 plants to border all the beds. That’s only about £30 worth at Lidl prices, so I’m very tempted.  All I need is a little patience. In a couple of years, I could have a neat and lovely cottage garden hedge.

Am I tempting blight with flat hedge tops?  Perhaps.  With even more patience, I could grow some rather wonderful spirals for a focal pièce de résistance. Is there another word for 10 years worth of patience? Endurance?   These spirals are created by making a chicken wire  mould, clipping the main shape, then draping a rope over the plant to guide the line, taking a deep breath, shears in hand, Dutch courage optional.

Chelsea 14 2

The Topiarist Garden again, from Chelsea 2014

Perhaps I’d prefer my box as a ball?  It’ll take a couple of years to…erm… grow some big balls. Here are the step – by – step instructions on how to do it from BBC Gardeners’ World.

chelsea 15 4

The Telegraph’s show garden from ’14, featuring domes of box, larkspur, Stipa gigantea, Nigella, Euphorbia and Iris “Jane Phillips”

Cleve West’s Contemporary Paradise Garden, also from Chelsea 2014:

Chelsea Cleve.jpg

Simply add Box balls, an intricate stone fountain, and (from bottom middle, clockwise) purple Nepeta, white Astrantia, indigo Centaurea, buff spikes of Heuchera “Thomas”, white Centranthus ruber, and lilac  Verbascum phoeniceum and voila.

All in all, lots of options for the Box. I will post pics of my creations as and when my plan[t]s come to fruition…or blight . One or the other.


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