, Muskogee, OK


August 24, 2011

Fall ideal time to plant shrubs

The string of 117-degree days and drought took its toll on gardeners and gardens alike.

Driving around, you notice dead and dying shrubs that could not withstand the heat even if they were watered.

Whether you lost young plants with shallow roots or older shrubs that were vulnerable, removing them will provide an opportunity to choose something new.

Full shrubs make beautiful hedges and privacy barriers as well as provide a background for fountains, pots and statuary. Fall is the ideal time to plant new shrubs since they grow their roots in the cold months.

Hedges emphasize and decorate entrances, can be used to prevent people from cutting across the lawn, will hide an air conditioner and can outline a driveway. Choosing a slow-growing, low maintenance shrub such as boxwood means minimal maintenance.

In the family of boxwood, box or Buxus there are 110 sizes, shapes, leaf forms and colors to choose from. Plus the alkaloids in Buxus keep deer away. The varieties can be mixed to form green walls, garden rooms, and borders.

Although Queen Anne thought boxwood was awful, the romantics often wrote about boxwood hedges – their bitter fragrance and their ability to bring back memories ( Pliny even featured them in his gardens in Tuscany.

The online Greenleaf Nursery Catalog is a good resource for considering which might work for the spaces you have.  The catalog is available to the public at

And, the American Boxwood Society ( has information about propagation, watering and fertilizing. Boxwoods have shallow roots. Avoid cultivating around them and mulch them in the winter for best results.

American Boxwoods are called Buxus sempervirens and English Boxwoods are called  Buxus  sempervirens Suffruticosa.  

Here are a few of the more than 100 boxwood choices:

• Small Leaf Boxwood, Buxus microphylla Compacta grows 8 inches tall and wide in 15 years. Use as an edging or accent for small gardens or bonsai.

• Dwarf English Boxwood, Buxus sempervirens suffruticosa, is a good choice for a pathway. It grows 2 feet tall and wide. Since it needs weekly water, the lawn sprinklers will keep it healthy.  Resist clipping and it will grow into little clouds. Leaf miner resistant.

• Vardar Valley, Buxus sempervirens grows into a flat-topped mound 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide with blue-green leaves.  

Japanese Box, Buxus microphylla var. japonica, grows 3 to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, making it an ideal privacy hedge. The leaves are one-half to one inch long. Drought and nematode resistant.

• Justin Brouwers Boxwood, Buxus Sinica var. Insularis, grows 2.5 feet tall and 3.5 feet wide in a loose form. It is supposed to be a hardy substitute for English-Suffruiticosa. This Korean variety forms a cone shape but can get frost damage.

Green Mountain, Buxus microphylla var. koreana X Buxus sempervirens, Green Mountain grows to 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, making it a good choice for hedges. Fragrant flowers in the spring.

• Buxus sempervirens Elegantissima, grows 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. The green-white variegated leaves have white margins.

• Narrow Boxwood, Buxus  sempervirens Graham Blandy, is known for growing 9 feet tall and 18 inches wide. Not successful in heavy clay.

• Weeping Golden Boxwood, Buxus Sempervirens Aurea Pendula, grows 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide with variegated gold and green leaves.

• Michael Dirr recommends Buxus harlandii, Harland Boxwood. The dark green leaves are 2 inches long. Leaves emerge early enough that late spring frost can nip the leaves, so a southern wall would be a good location. Grows up to 6 feet tall and wide. Harlandii is called Winter Gem by some nurseries.

Boxwoods are tough but can be stressed by shearing, over-watering and over-fertilizing. Give them compost, a little fertilizer and weekly water while until they become established.

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