The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Time to Shovel the Boxwoods

The front garden before

The front garden after
The hall with balls
We got 18 inches of wet snow today, so it is time to shovel the boxwoods. I have 37 rounded boxwoods in my garden. They are mostly a Sheridan hybrid called Buxus x 'Green Gem'. The Sheridan hybrids were developed at the Sheridan Nursery in Oakville, Ontario. They are a cross of English box, B. sempervirens, which gives them a nice dark green color, and the excellent hardiness of B. var. koreana. They have been quite happy in the exposed areas of my garden which often experience extended periods of -20 degrees F.
I first fell for boxwoods while visiting North Hill, the Readsboro, VT garden of Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd. Near the house and throughout the garden, they planted rounded boxwoods. Sixteen boxwoods add punctuation and provide a repeated rhythm in their rose garden. In 1997, I took a design class at North Hill and Joe and Wayne were talking about the importance of repetition in the garden. I decided to add spherical boxwoods to my garden to provide a unifying presence throughout the property.
In the upper front garden, I copied Bunny Williams' paired rows boxwoods on either side of the pathway. I have under-planted them with Epimedium pinnatum ssp.colchicum. I selected that plant because it is a distinctive but vigorous ground cover with handsome foliage and yellow flowers in May.
I planted 17 boxwoods on the step garden which links the upper garden to the lower garden. I like to call it the Hall with Balls. This time, I under-planted the boxwoods with the lesser known native American pachysandra, Pachysandra procumbens . I wanted to emulate the mass of round shrubs that I had read about in the late Nicole de Vesian's garden in Provence. I felt that garden should not be busy with flowers but should be an area where the visitor would "cleanse their palate" before entering the floriferous lower garden. I have also been working on pruning the Cornus officinalis tree to accentuate the bark and branching pattern of the trunks. Another Provence gardener and land artist, named Marc Nucera, has inspired me to pay closer attention to the pruning the trees as if they were sculpture.
When all the shoveling is done, I find the dark green rounds popping their heads out of the snow quite satisfying. For me, it is a subtle reminder that come summer these rounds will be popping out of foliage textures and flowers.
You might like these two books by Eck and Winterrowd: Our Life in Gardens and A Year at North Hill. Louisa Jones has two books that include the work of Nicole se Vesian and Marc Nucera: The French Country Garden and New Gardens in Provence. By the way, I think Joe Eck has written one of the most concise books on garden design called Elements of Garden Design. It has about 30 4-5 page essays on topics like intention, structure, repose and children in the garden. Each a very quick, enjoyable and informative read.


  1. I love the boxwoods. I wish could grow them, but they don't take to my soggy soil. The book by Joe Eck is on my list of classics in garden design.

  2. James,
    I agree, Joe Eck's book is right up there with Russell Page's The Education of a Gardener, but much more concise and easy to read in short bursts.

  3. Dear Michael, I have discovered your weblog quite by chance, and I am so glad that I have done so. The whole of this posting I found immensely interesting and, as it happens, agree with everything you write. Your box spheres are superb and, yes, repetition in the garden is, for me, a very important element. It adds rhythm, it leads and conveys a sense of well being.

    I wonder if you grow Prunus lusitanica which, with a little thought, can be trained as standards and then fashioned as umbrellas or lollipops. If you are daring, then the trunks could be painted each summer with a water based paint as I believe is done with other trees in Provence.

    As it happens my own latest posting is on Topiary, focussing on yew and box. I shall now hope to sign up as one of your 'Followers'.

  4. Edith,
    So glad you found my blog! I am not familiar with Prunus lusitanica. Usually when that happens, it is because it is not hardy here in New Hampshire which I think of as a cold Zone 5. I enjoyed your post on topiary. I am not sure I have the courage paint the trunks of my topiary but I think I saw Andrew Lawson do that with a tree that had died. I'll keep it in mind and see how brave I become! Thanks for your kind words.

  5. Michael, I have also planted some of the Sheridan Nursery box in my garden. They went in last summer. It snows quite a bit where I live, the box are now completely buried. I had been wondering if I should try to uncover them.

  6. Deborah,
    I have been uncovering them for years. I think they can be brittle and break if there is a heavy, wet snow. Snow-drag as the snow melts can also be a problem I have read. It isn't a fun task but I do like the results. Good luck!



Related Posts with Thumbnails