The humble box hedge has disappeared somewhat falling out of vogue with most gardeners these days. The reason for its demise is threefold; maintenance, maintenance and maintenance. In our ever burgeoning busy world finding time to grow and maintain a box hedge is fast becoming a relic of the ‘golden years’.
Yet, if there was ever a better time to grow a box hedge, or any hedge at all, now would be it. Our propagation techniques have increased immeasurably and most home gardeners are able to achieve much higher strike rates now than ever before.
Plus, the tools for maintaining and growing a hedge are far superior to the ones our ancestors struggled with centuries ago.
So it seems that while growing a box hedge may be simpler our preferred garden styles have moved away from the formal structure so much that hedges, especially clipped hedges, are losing their attraction.
Temper that thought with the fact that box hedges are heavy water consumers and it makes sense that they’re no longer the darlings of the gardening community.
However, while a parterre garden recognising its baroque forefathers may not be your style a box hedge could still play a part in your garden. Unless you have the time, formal garden structures are becoming less popular but adding a hedge can semi-formalise your yard without demanding too much effort.
How to Grow a Box Hedge
Before you start setting out your garden to accommodate a box hedge you may need to consider which type of hedge you want to grow. One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to boxes.
- Dutch Box (Buxus sempervirens suffruitcosa) – this is a tight-clipped, dwarf variety that is very slow growing. Hard to establish but much easier to maintain.
- African Box (Myrsine africana) – this box is relatively fast-growing, very waterwise and can grow to 3m (10ft), if you allow it, but can also be maintained at 30cm.
- Japanese Box (Buxus microphylla japonica) – another waterwise contender, the Japanese box has darker leaves than other types and remains relatively compact.
- English Box (Buxus sempervirens) – the most common box hedge plant the English box is a great medium-sized offering some resilient qualities to the home gardener.
- Korean Box (Buxus microphylla var. koreana) – not dissimilar to the Japanese box, this is a great cooler climate hedge.
When it comes to growing a box hedge there are three things that you need to consider; how fast you want to grow your hedge, the amount of money you want to spend, and how high you want it to grow.
The amount of spacing you give to your box hedge plants will determine how quickly the hedge takes shape. Most boxes require between 30cm to 1m to space them appropriately so the easiest way to plant these is to calculate the length of the bed and divide by the spacing you opt for.
The next consideration is the amount of money you want to spend. Buying mature boxes, or even those in larger pots, will cost more than propagating them yourself but it does take longer to establish your hedge. While it may seem better to plant some mature boxes and intersperse these with smaller, immature specimens this is not the best option. To grow a consistent hedge it’s much smarter to start them all at the same level.
Finally, allowing your hedge to grow to a specific height primarily comes down to plant choice. If you’re wanting to keep it small without much maintenance then choosing a Japanese or Korean Box makes more sense. Yet, if you want a hedge with substance then opting for an African or English box will give you some more options.
Providing your box hedge with dripper irrigation is probably the best way to keep them reticulated and they should only require an application of slow-release fertiliser every 12 months.
Photo source: Anguskirk