Pros: you can make poodle balls and dancing bears
Cons: none for me
For those that like to make their shrubs into cute little shapes, you can’t go wrong when you select the Winter Gem Boxwood [Buxus microphylla japonica ‘Winter Gem’]. Boxwood have been used for centuries to make up ‘proper’ gardens and form intricate pathways.
~Dense growth, moderate in rate
~Size 4’ x 4’, can be controlled by pruning
~Naturally compact and rounded in habit
~Foliage may turn brownish to yellow-green in fall
~Flowers are insignificant [April] but fragrant and attracts bees
~Full sun to dappled shade
~‘They’ say protect from winter wind and cold. I say … planted at my son’s grave at cemetery, can’t get much windier or colder than that with no protection
~Deer say … Nope, not interested
~Yes, I have problems but I’m not ready for therapy
Reading all the says and nays about this plant, I chuckle thinking of how I blatantly popped it in the ground at the cemetery because I wanted something that would be there year round. It gets no water except what God gives it, it has no protection from wind, snow, ice, or anything else that may come its’ way. It was a tiny little 2 gallon specimen when I planted it, ranging about 2’ in height. Now it flourishes at 4’ with a 3’ spread, full and lush, and makes a great little tree to decorate for various occasions.
When landscaping, I planted the most intricate knot garden using this shrub, coupled with herbs, flowers, and red barberry. Of course, like most gardens of this nature, they really have to be viewed from above to be appreciated, but this home was three stories and had a wonderful view of the knot. Knot gardens are very time consuming to lay out and even more so to maintain. However, with the use of the Winter Gem Boxwood, it was practically maintenance free.
I have also used this shrub to line walkways, garden perimeters, driveways, and patios. It is the perfect shrub for dense hedging because it adapts to pruning so easily. I would like to point out, though, that I used a hand-operated hedge shear, not powered hedge trimmers, to keep it looking fresh and tidy. Although I know a lot of people use powered equipment, for time saving purposes mainly, they really are a detriment to the plants. Even freshly sharpened cutting surfaces can tear at the branches instead of cleanly clipping them, causing bruising and damage. Just a point I thought I’d make.
This is also a perfect shrub for those folks that like to make garden art out of their shrubs. Boxwood, as a whole, enjoy a shearing, so feel free to form your poodle balls and dancing bears to your hearts content. Unlike some other evergreens, boxwood will replenish its’ leaves when you see die-out. Some evergreens leave you with bare spots that never fill in properly when a portion dies.
It doesn’t come without its’ liabilities, though. Attacks from boxwood psyllid, leaf minor, mite, nematodes and root rot can cause you some problems. Myself, I’ve never been bothered by any of these but, for the most part, my gardens have always been strictly maintained to assure good plant health. Some people don’t care for the winter coloration that can form on this particular selection, it can show a sickly yellow-green even fading to a puckish brown, but I’ve never seen this happen.
The best time to prune these shrubs is in the summer, but before the intense heat and humidity strike. A little extra water may be required in extreme heat [although my guy at the cemetery seems to thrive on its’ own]. When watering, water at the base of the plant. Yes, I know overhead watering with a sprinkler is so much easier, but a deep soaking at the base encourages strong root growth. Fertilizer should be mild, applied in the spring before new growth. I would use something in the 10-10-10 range, it is an all purpose fertilizer that suits almost all shrubs.
There are many varieties of Boxwood available. Check your local nursery for the plant that meets your specifications and is hardy in your area.