Boxing clever?

As the garden is coming along and I am getting areas dug and planted I feel slightly less reticent about exposing my failures in the garden and pulling back with the photos to show the fledgling garden rather than tight close-ups of flowers! And so, today, my knot garden.

The idea of this was to make a knot garden, of box (Buxus sempervirens or boxwood to our friends across the Atlantic) that will be filled with bedding. I am unashamed to say that I enjoy bedding plants and, in this part of the garden, just to the south of my bed of favourite roses, I marked out a bed, 4m square, last spring. I dug it over and incorporated lots of compost and popped in a few plants last summer. There are variegated holly at each corner that will be clipped into cones.

In the meantime, last January, l took box cuttings for the hedges. Box is usually grown from tip cuttings taken in summer. These root well but the cuttings are small and it takes a while for the plants to be big enough to plant out. I discovered, many years ago, that hardwood cuttings root too. If taken from old plants, you can cut out long stems, about 20cm long, and trim off most of the young foliage at the top so you have cuttings about 15cm long. These, if taken in winter, root quite well. I have even pushed them in the soil where they are to grow. But my soil is awful and I wanted to improve that first so I rooted my cuttings in mushroom trays about 15cm deep, filled with multipurpose compost. They were packed in and I worked out my planting plan and needed about 800 plants.

I am very happy to spend money on plants but not on 800 plants all the same so it was important to grow my own.

Anyway, I was certain that most had rooted but I knew that a good proportion had died so that was one reason why I simplified my knot design. And then the aches started! Cutting hedges is not my favourite activity and then I thought about the prospect of trimming intricate patterns of box hedge 15cm high. And I went ouch! So, with the thought of being on my hands and knees trimming hedges when I can’t even get up the stairs, and the prospect that I did not have enough plants, I simplified the plan. It will still look formal but it will be easier to plant too, with a central circle and a surrounding cross-ish shape.

I am ashamed to admit that, no sooner was the hedge planted than the polyanthus went in. They should have been planted in autumn and they will have to be moved soon to make room for summer plants. But I was not ready for them sooner. These polyanthus are a bit of an experiment. I bought some big-flowered, probably F1 hybrid polyanthus last spring and crossed them with some Barnhaven polys. A big blue was crossed with ‘Paris 90’ while some tangerines were crossed with ‘Harbour Lights’. All gave fairly predictable offspring apart from a big pink crossed with a Barnhaven pink which has produced a wide variety of colours. They are all planted now and will give a rather haphazard display till they get moved under the plum trees to retire.

As it turns out, I had more than enough box plants, so many, I hope, that I am using the remainder as an edging for my ‘azel and ‘osta garden, but more of that soon – I was digging that over on Sunday till it started to rain.




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4 Comments on “Boxing clever?”

  1. mitzybricker
    March 11, 2020 at 10:30 am #

    What fun! Looks great!

    Blue Rock Horses Frederick County, Virginia

  2. tonytomeo
    March 13, 2020 at 2:01 am #

    How excellent that you rooted your own cuttings! No one does that anymore. We often get can feral plants that must be removed from landscapes, with the intention of planting them ‘somewhere’. However, some are rather useless. This last winter, we rooted a ‘few’ Boston ivy. Rather than just root a few cuttings in a can and separating them later, I rooted an entire flat. I expected most to not root. Now, all but a few of the hundred cuttings are doing quite nicely, and we only want about four or six! Boston ivy is not exactly a very useful plant!

    • thebikinggardener
      March 23, 2020 at 1:56 pm #

      I like propagating plants where possible. You can never be sure how many will succeed so it is tricky to know how many to take to get a certain number. And if they all root it is impossible to cull all those potential plants!

      • tonytomeo
        March 23, 2020 at 8:13 pm #

        Exactly! There is an obligation to find homes for all of them, even if you know they are difficult to accommodate.

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