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  • Writer's pictureJan Peterson

A Lesson about Boxwood

Boxwood is often used in holiday decorating and it adds some bulk and interest to your outdoor arrangements and centerpieces. Better yet, a little goes a long way and it will last well beyond the holiday season. Make sure you cut it, put the stems in water and keep it in your cooler. If you order boxwood by the box or bag, you're probably getting a variety of different types that come from the South, which aren't as affected by cold weather as those grown in New England.

If you grow and clip from your own bushes, here's a quick primer:

Most boxwoods are grown in zones 5-9 and are winter hardy. They can grow in light shade or full sun and they supply endless green to your winter landscape, while other shrubs loose their foliage. They tend to need regular trimming in late spring/early summer to keep their shape and they often need protection with burlap for heavy snowfalls. Boxwoods can get boxwood blight, a fungus which spots the plant and spreads, eventually killing the shrub. It's spores are easily spread by shearing the plant or general maintenance, so infected plants need to be removed and healthier plants sprayed regularly with a fungicide. The blight worsens in years where we get a lot of rain, since the spores like moisture.

English boxwood are more dwarf in size, slow growing and commonly used in formal landscape design. They aren't as hardy as other boxwoods. American (common) boxwoods are more of an upright, tree boxwood, darker in color, more fast growing and tend to be pest and disease resistant. They can withstand cold, harsh winters. There are also Japanese and Korean boxwoods. Both flower somewhat in the spring and have more elongated leaves. Both are less tolerant of the cold and may brown or yellow during the winter months, but regain their color in the spring.

Some of the hybrids commonly available in Connecticut are: Green Velvet, Green Mountain, and Green Gem. Chances are these are what you have on your property. All tend to be hardy in the winter and retain their color all season long - making them an excellent choice for the garden and for cutting.

"The only green thing left are the holly bushes and the old boxwood hedges in the village, and these are often painted white with snow."

- Alice Hoffman

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