Boxwood are one of the most versatile and elegant of evergreen shrubs. They have very shallow roots, can tolerate most conditions and be used in both formal and informal settings. It are theses characteristics that make them so desirable today.
Their popularity is not new. Although grains for a species was found in England as far back as 7,000 B.C., they were destroyed during a Glacial epoch. They resurfaced around 4,000 B.C. in ancient Egyptian tombs. Their popularity surged at the height of the Roman Empire and throughout the Dark Ages, used as hedges and topiaries in Royal gardens.
One of the Boxwood’s most delightful and interesting facts is that it has historically been used to make boxes, chess pieces, printing using woodblocks, and musical instruments and parts, particularly form the strings and woodwind class and is still used for many of these purposes today.
It is a plant that seems almost too good to be true! Well almost. As of late our dear friend has had some issues, that many of you might have experienced. Several years ago we had an extremely cold Chicago winter with unusually light snow cover…and plants with shallow roots really rely on their winter blankets. As spring sprung, we noticed the loss of a lot of plant species…especially boxwood, yews, junipers and roses.
Boxwoods suffered another hit. Boxwood blight. It is a fungal disease that really has no treatment. The only course of action is to remove them from the nursery or landscape.
These plants of course need to be replaced, and replace them we are. Why is having to replace them so important to our tale? Well because Boxwoods are extremely slow growing, and as the demand increases due not only to popularity but a need to replace them, growers just cannot keep up. It is a difficult concept to explain to a property owner, but our current reality.
There are alternatives. They are not boxwoods, but they are options…”Green Mound’ Alpine Current, ‘Karen’s’ Azalea, Deutzia, and our owner’s favorite… Barberry. Peruse some of these favorites on our nursery’s website.
Many people say everything happens for a reason. Maybe this did. I like to think utilizing a different palette challenges our creativity and encourages diversifying our monoculture.