In the winter it is hard to find much that is interesting for plant life. I look out my window and most plants are bare and brown. However, there are many evergreens that can be utilized in your landscape for season-long interest.
Common Boxwood, Buxus sempervirens, is a broadleaf evergreen shrub that grows up to 15-20 feet tall and wide. It can be grown as a large shrub that can grow into a small tree. The leaves are fleshy, and broader than the needles on typical evergreens and they are up to 1 inch long and ½ inch wide. It has small, creamy yellow flowers in April to May that are held in the leaf axils, but they are not very noticeable. The fruit is a short, 3-horned capsule with 2 seeds in each valve.
Boxwood is a great plant to use for hedges or as a massing of many boxwoods. It is also a great plant to use in your landscape if you are a fan of topiary work and is often used in formal gardens. It is easy to maintain a shape with regular shearing. It will tolerate light shade but does not tolerate excessively wet locations. Boxwoods also have a problem with drying winds and extreme cold temperatures. Damage occurs on dry, windy winters from winter desiccation. This can be managed through the use of anti-desiccant sprays, or anti-transpirants and winter watering.
Korean boxwood, Buxus microphylla var. koreana, is another species of boxwood that can be utilized for smaller spaces, it is only 2.5 feet tall and wide. There are also a lot of varieties of boxwoods to choose from to fit your needs. Good selections include ‘Green Mountain’ and ‘Green Velvet’ which are actually hybrids between the common boxwood and Korean boxwood. They include the hardiness and compact form of the Korean boxwood with the good leaf color of the common boxwood. ‘Green Velvet’ is 4 feet wide and tall and has a mounded form, while ‘Green Mountain’ is more pyramidal in shape with similar size.
According to Michael Dirr, the wood is hard and has a bony consistency making it good for carving. The foliage can have an unpleasant odor certain times of the year, but not for the whole season. This odor can be avoided with different varieties.
Boxwood is prone to root rot, so be sure it is planted in well-drained locations. Also, in the spring the plant may have areas of brown foliage along the tops and sides that were exposed to winter winds. Once spring has come, the brown can be pruned out. Wait until it is consistently warm before pruning out winter desiccation to ensure all the browning has appeared, typically in late May to early June.
Evergreens give color to your landscape all through the year. There are a lot to choose from. Boxwoods make a great hedge and are easy to keep tidy and looking nice all year. So the next time you are looking for an evergreen shrub, look to boxwood. If the full-sized species is too large, ‘Green Mountain’ and ‘Green Velvet’ are great alternatives.