Boxwood is a versatile evergreen shrub with a broad range of forms and sizes that has long been a treasured hedging plant in the garden. Fossilized boxwood leaves and fruit have been discovered dating back approximately 22.5 million years. In Roman times, atria in affluent villas were landscaped with formal boxwood plantings used to frame garden spaces, paths, or doorways. Sculpted or 3-dimensional topiary was/is another use for boxwood, since the dense branching and small leaves supported close shearing. The shapes act as anchors, finials, and ornamentation in the garden. In the Middle Ages, parterres, rose gardens and knot gardens also employed boxwood.
"Man's Oldest Garden Ornament," was introduced to North America from Europe in the mid-1600s and reached peak popularity in the United States during the early 19th century and again during the Colonial Revival era. There are many classic plantings such as the one at Mount Vernon. When I lectured at Colonial Williamsburg I learned it boasts seven miles of boxwood hedges.
The Latin name Buxus sempervirens was given to boxwood by Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus in 1753. Buxus means “box” and sempervirens means “evergreen.” The wood of boxwood is highly regarded. It is firm, smooth grained, strong, uniform, has great elasticity and its shrinkage is minimal when dried. It has been used to make beautiful jewel boxes, combs, wood inlays, carved ornaments, utensils, tablets, and flutes.
Fine-textured, the tiny, lustrous leaves are abundant and add a distinctive color note, retaining their rich, emerald-green color particularly well in winter. Baby Gem Boxwood’s extremely small, lustrous leaves provide a matte effect even when formally sheared or sculpted, since the tiny leaves don’t show shearing cuts.
The brisk growth rate makes Baby Gem Boxwood ideal for carefree hedging in a wide area of the U.S. It is an emerald gem of a foundation plant, excellent for edging, and may be clipped for parterres, topiary and formal gardens. The vibrant green hue provides an exceptional backdrop for brilliant annual and perennial flowers and statuary.
Other splendid characteristics of this garden gem include deer resistance and tolerance of dry soils once established. Baby Gem Boxwood flourishes in conditions of sun to shade, and benefits from an organic mulch to keep roots cool. Look for Baby Gem Boxwood in garden centers this spring.
For more information about proper cultivation and landscape applications of boxwood, or to find fellow boxwood lovers, visit the American Boxwood Society website.