There are just a few great choices to box (English boxwood or Buxus sempervirens) for topiary. But I’ve just visited a beautiful private garden in Kent that shows both box off and also the very best box replacements completely superbly.
With the box shrub moth caterpillar currently munching its way through gardens everywhere, it has been a hot topic for the last couple of decades.
Even in case you do not possess box blight or vessel tree caterpillar in which you reside, there are fantastic advantages of finding alternatives to box to your topiary and very low hedging structure.
Firstly, the various foliage colors make a really excellent comparison, as you can see below (and over!) .
And second, if a pest or disease will come together, a fantastic mixture of different shrubs will help block the spread. Having a lot of the exact same plant in one garden may indicate that one pest or disease may devastate the backyard. Diversity is the trick to good health.
This lovely private garden was planted with a great deal of box topiary through recent years. And it has had a brief brush with both box blight and the box tree caterpillar.
But Jim has it under control, partially by discovering options to box and partially by fixing the couple affected plants that they did have.
Alternatives to box for topiary and reduced clipped hedging
- Yew — that the number one solution to ship
- Viburnum tinus (curved shapes only)
- Privet (but it is quickly growing so needs cutting frequently )
- Holly, such as Ilex crenata (with warnings…)
Yew is your best choice to ship
Jim states that yew (Taxus baccata) is undoubtedly the best choice to stay for topiary and low hedges. ‘People think of it for grand gardens and big hedges,’ he states. ‘But it can be cut quite low and into any shape you want. You can prune it as hard as you like and it will grow in any soil. It doesn’t enjoy its origins sitting in moist soil, but it’s quite robust.’
If you need vertical contours, he urges Irish yew, which is grows upwards in a narrow, tight fastigiate column. If you need balls, spirals, boxes or very low hedging, then purchase English yew.
Jim recommends purchasing bare root yews at least 60cm-80cm tall. Cut back them once you’ve implanted them should you’d like them shorter. ‘For some reason, planting pot grown yews under 60cm often has a high failure rate,’ he states.
In next area — pittosporum
‘If you want large topiary balls, I’Id select pittosporum,”’ states Jim. ‘It’another wonderful evergreen plant. It does not have lots of diseases or pests — only occasional leaf spot that may be treated quite easily.’
You can prune pittosporum back challenging and it is drought tolerant. ‘However, it is quite vigorous,’ he states. ‘You can clip box once a year, preferably in July/August so that new growth hardens off before the frosts. But yew and pittosporum both need clipping twice a year, in spring and autumn.’
When purchasing pittosporum, Jim urges you check which the plant is not pot bound. Slip it from its pot to ensure the roots have not made a tight mat against the face of the kettle. This is called ‘pot bound’ and pot bound plants frequently don’t flourish as their origins do not spread into the dirt in the ideal way.
Pittosporums may also be marginally frost tender, and therefore don’t plant them in a frost pocket. If that you get a tough freeze prediction, Jim urges that you simply just throw a horticultural fleece above them.
Alternatives to box — euonymus
Euonymus is the third best choice to box,” states Jim. Like Pittosporum, it comes in a number of different types with shades from grey-green to yellow-green.
Euonymus are generally pest and disease-free, states Jim. But they could lose their leaves in very cold winters, even though they re-grow the following spring. It’s a slow growing plant also will take a little time to develop to a low hedge or form.
Three options to box You Might Want to prevent
There are 3 other plants which may work as options to box for easy topiary, however Jim has reservations regarding them.
Japanese holly (Ilex crenata)
Firstly, Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) has frequently been advocated for topiary, as it appears so similar to box. It has little leaves and may be trimmed into contours. But Jim states he finds it has a looser habit. ‘You won’t receive the tight, streamlined topiary you’d get from yew or box’
It doesn’t flourish in this backyard, though it’s supposed to do well in virtually any soil. Jim states that it is also rather costly, so personally he would not purchase it profit.
Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium)
Secondly, privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) could be clipped into shape. I have got two privet lollipops in my backyard and they’re a really reasonable way of getting topiary.
But Jim cautions that privet is quite fast-growing, which means you would have to clip it three times annually. I concur with him. It’s fine for me to clip two little standards three times annually, but when I had some more privet it’d be too large maintenance.
Thirdly, there’s Viburnum tinus. This is observed here from the steps in Jim’s backyard (see below) and it seems great trimmed into lollipop contours. But he states it is only great to get a round shape and could not be clipped into cones or spirals.
Stylish clipped forming to get a conifer hedge!
There is a clipped conifer hedge within this garden that is made of 2 contrasting conifers. The primary run of this Dollar of Cypress Leylandii, kept trimmed frequently. Slightly paler Thuja occidentalis are implanted in front of it, and clipped to shape. It creates a trendy contrast.
Treatments for box blight and box moth caterpillar
If that you ought to prevent box blight, ensure that you purchase your box out of specialist, rather local providers who understand they have not got it. Or increase your own from cuttings. Never borrow other people’s shears or alternative gear.
But since the box shrub moth caterpillar will fly, these steps are less effective against it.
You can purchase effective chemical remedies against both box blight and box shrub moth caterpillar. But that the best remedies require a licence. So amateur anglers generally do not have access to those. Jim includes a license, so that he uses a pesticide called Bandu from the caterpillar along with a fungicide called Signum from the blight.
There will also be remedies offered for national gardeners. The RHS includes a page of advice about preventing and treating box blight for amateur gardeners.
You may also participate companies to perform professional remedies. Jim used to work for one of these — Bartlett Tree Services.
See this really pretty garden in video
You can view a great deal more of the really amazing garden in this video, combined with Jim’s interview. It really is well worth watching (I presume!)
Shop my favorite gardening products, publications and resources
I am often asked for recommendations so I have assembled lists of those gardening products, books and resources I use myself onto the Middlesized Garden Amazon shop. Note that hyperlinks Amazon are affiliate, so that I may find a small fee should you purchase, but I just recommend things I really use myself!
For instance, there’s a topiary book as well as the shears that I (and several professional anglers ) use from the Create Your Own Topiary list here.
And there’s much more about using simple topiary shapes in trendy ways to provide your garden evergreen construction here. Plus you will find money-saving strategies for purchasing topiary here.
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