Buxus sempervirens


Grown on a hillside in North Carolina, these American boxwoods are a staple in our plantings.

I can't more eloquently describe the effect they have on a person as others have done, so I'll just share how I plant 'em.

Meticulously cared-for, and pruned to achieve a full, semi-globular affect (thank you Worth & Co.), each are unique.

Considering the angle of the hillsides on which they are grown, qualities that affect their positioning as we plant are evident.

The body:

It branches up, and outward from the base; a dense, vertical lattice, the lower branchings forming a skirt.

Variability in growth and growing produce a wide range of skirts: some follow the base equally, but most are individually lower and higher--by virtue of the angle of the hillside, and exposure to the sun--as one walks around them.

Those you see here express this each in their own way.

The intent is to position them vertically, and have the fullest length of skirt exposed as possible.

The root ball:

'B&B', for "ball-and-burlap", the core and sustaining roots are wrapped in burlap to protect, and hold-contiguous the soil which surrounds them during transport.

Considering the angle of the soils in which they are grown, most root balls are variable in depth around the circumference.

Planting a variable-depth root ball on level ground (while maintaining a reasonably uniform height when planting in groups) means that some parts rise higher, and are more exposed.

I start by digging a hole wide enough to allow a boot to step-down the surrounding, chopped-up soil as it is re-introduced, maintaining a depth that allows the lowest side to rest two fingers or so above the existing soil line.

One can mound-up soil around the base, but this often leads to non-uniform moisture retention and possible root exposure as the soil further compacts, or is washed off in the elements.

Boxwood branches hold a natural tendency to spread new roots, and it's neither healthy, nor aesthetic, long-term for the lower branches to have premature contact with the soil: new surface roots serve to support their respective branches, and they are the most susceptible to drying-out in their surface exposure.

[this also holds-true for roots formed on branches inside the body, so attention also needs-be applied to clean the inside of each on a regular basis lest decomposing organic matter provide a welcoming, but temporary, substrate which is ever-so-more susceptible to drying-out than the lasting soils, below]

A careful balance between planting too low on one side and too high on the other needs-be achieved.

The burlap can be retained intact, pinned to itself around the roots (it will soon decompose), but I prefer to peel it back, removing the last barrier to its further growth.

Doing so also allows one to loosen the soil from the higher parts of the root ball, so as to make it more even, all around.

Care must be taken to not sever the roots in-bulk on these high sides. By chopping radially, vertically, carefully, the soil holding these roots is loosened, allowing these (thousands, each plant does have) to relax downward. Covering them with fresh soil, they soon learn to live well upon level ground.

I take the steel nails and plant them around the base as a slow-release supplement.

Excessive burlap is cut-away, but most I pack into the inner rim of the hole which I did dig for it.

Attention must be taken in covering and compacting the final layers of soil and mulch in which these will now live, pulling back the excess lest it crowd the base, and force the lower branches to root, prematurely.

Of course, a decent, soaking watering is necessary for all new plantings as they are very
thirsty from their travels, and the fresh soil needs a soak to further compact, driving-out air pockets new roots might find, their dying gasp spelling the end of their new journey.

These plants are far too expensive and beautiful to treat them with any less care :)

Previous Post Blog Index Next Post