Boxwood Around the World

The Buxus genus includes many species of boxwood that are native to different parts of the world. They are versatile shrubs that have been planted in gardens for thousands of years. Whether a formal setting or a more casual style, boxwood are up for the task. With its strong shape and evergreen habit, boxwood perform in the garden year-round. In the grey of the winter months, the rich green foliage provides old-world formality, and as the spring debuts its bright colors, boxwood provide a rich green backdrop as foundation plants. With a high tolerance to pruning, these shrubs make wonderful hedges or can become works of art as topiaries.

As one travels around the globe, you are likely to spot boxwood in all kinds of shapes and sizes. The majority of Buxus species are considered tropical or sub-tropical, but the more commonly cultivated European, American, and Asian species are very frost tolerant and have migrated away from the tropics.

As part of our dedication to learning all we can from boxwood growers around the world, our team has spent some time traveling and spotting boxwood along the way. Here we share some of our favorite plantings of boxwood to highlight their versatility and bring you some inspiration.

United States:

Starting on our home turf, the United States has many diverse climates but you will find boxwood in almost every state. From the sunny streets of San Francisco, California to the bustling metropolis of Indianapolis, Indiana to the quiet foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, you’ll find our favorite evergreen.

Canada

Like the United States, Canada has varying climates coast to coast. The western coast tends to have milder temperatures, lots of overcast days, and a good bit of rain, where as the eastern coast can see colder winters. However, boxwood are found in many landscapes throughout the country.

Europe

The formal gardens found in many European countries, some dating back thousands of years are arguably responsible for putting boxwood on the map as an ornamental crop. Through the years many other styles of landscape architecture have become popular, but you are still very likely to find boxwood mixed in. Whether they are in the miles of hedges found in French Chateaus, or small living fences in English Vegetable gardens, or specimens and topiaries in the Netherlands, boxwood are sure to make an appearance. You will even find native boxwood growing wild in many forests on the European continent. These native specimens have historically been more than just ornamental crops, and were used in historical medicine. You can also find the wood used in carpentry due to its thick density and strength.

This is only a snippet of photos from our archives. There are many more gardens in the world filled with boxwood. While traveling, keep an eye out for boxwood in all shapes and sizes!

Tips and Tricks for Growing Cleaner Plants

Creating a phytosanitary plan doesn’t have to be a daunting endeavor. There are many simple steps you can take to grow cleaner plants. Saunders Brothers has worked with many researchers and Extension agents to establish protocol to help prevent the introduction and spread of Boxwood Blight at their nurseries. Although this plan was designed with Boxwood Blight in mind, these practices will help growers produce cleaner, more successful plants.

Foot mats/baths:

Foot baths are located at every walkway leading to the Saunders Brothers office.

Foot baths are located at every walkway leading to the Saunders Brothers office.

One of the first and easiest steps to take is the inclusion of foot mats/baths for sterilizing shoes of anyone entering a growing area. These can be placed in greenhouses, worker common areas, and near offices. Having foot baths as a first line of defense minimizes the introduction of new pathogens to your growing area. Saunders Brothers uses foot mats at the entrance to all of their office and worker areas. Saunders Brothers uses Zerotol® 2.0, but a 10% bleach solution is also effective.

Disposable pant/boot covers:

Crews in the field nursery wear disposable suits when they are working on larger plants.

Crews in the field nursery wear disposable suits when they are working on larger plants.

Crews wear rubber boots that can be easily cleaned and disposable pants when moving between growing areas.

Crews wear rubber boots that can be easily cleaned and disposable pants when moving between growing areas.

An example of plastic pant and boot covers in the field.

An example of plastic pant and boot covers in the field.

Disposable pants and boots serve as a physical barrier between one’s clothing and the plants they are working in. If there are any spores or pests on the clothing, it is less likely they will migrate to the plants. Saunders Brothers employees wear disposable, plastic pant and boot covers while working in boxwood houses. Boxwood Blight spores can stick to tools and clothing moving from location to location, so instead of worrying about having fresh clothes, disposable pant/boot covers are the perfect solution.

This is also a great tool for landscapers that may visit many sites in a day. Instead of having to change or sterilize clothing, wearing disposable pant and boot covers greatly reduces disease or pest movement from site to site.

Sterilizing tools/equipment:

Pruning crews as Saunders clean their tools with alcohol between each house.

Pruning crews as Saunders clean their tools with alcohol between each house.

Even large equipment like digging machines are cleaned with sterilant between fields.

Even large equipment like digging machines are cleaned with sterilant between fields.

Sterilizing tools and equipment is an easy, practical step to take towards growing cleaner plants. It is a good practice to carry around a spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol. Research shows that a 50% isopropyl alcohol solution is effective at killing most plant diseases. Alcohol spray can be used to clean any handheld tools such as pruners, shovels, or trimmers. Other options of sterilants are a 10% bleach solution or Lysol® spray. Many researchers also recommend hydrogen dioxide products such as Zerotol® 2.0. Make sure to always check labels before you use any products. Most of these products are very user-friendly and are labeled to clean tools, equipment, or even surfaces.

Dragging a hose through a bed of infected plants and then moving it through a healthy bed could spread diseases. Taking an extra minute to spray the hose down with a sterilant could avoid a bigger cleanup in the future.

Cleaning Stations/Sectioned growing areas:

Cleaning stations in the field nursery.

Cleaning stations in the field nursery.

Cleaning station in the container nursery.

Cleaning station in the container nursery.

This tip takes a bit more planning than some of the other suggestions, but might have the biggest pay off if you ever run into a disease or pest problem. Saunders Brothers has set up both their field and container nurseries in sections. In the container nursery, boxwood are grown in specific locations separated by roadways. In the field nursery, areas are sectioned based on geography. Each section has a cleaning station that all employees must visit at they enter and exit. Cleaning stations are stocked with:

  • Disposable pant/boot covers

  • Trashcan

  • Boot bath and brush

  • 70% Isopropyl alcohol spray/liquid hand sanitizer.

  • High pressure water hose (field)

Crews using a cleaning station to rinse off their shoes and equipment.

Crews using a cleaning station to rinse off their shoes and equipment.

Upon entering and exiting the area each employee must:

Entering:

  • wear rubber boots, easily washed boots, or disposable boot covers

  • step in boot bath/wash boots

  • put on disposable pant covers

Exiting:

  • remove and trash disposable pant covers or spray pants

  • step in boot bath/wash boots

  • wash hands/ use hand sanitizer

  • rinse off tools, then spray with alcohol

This is an example of the sectioned boxwood production areas are at the containers nursery at Saunders Brothers.

This is an example of the sectioned boxwood production areas are at the containers nursery at Saunders Brothers.

The perks of setting up these sectioned areas is that in the event of an infection, you can quarantine one area, and continue production from the other locations. Consequently, each time a person or a crew enters a new area, they are cleaning off any potential pests or diseases.

Establishing cleaner growing protocol doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Taking some steps early on in production can help set you and your plants up for success while combating common pests and diseases. Consider these tips and find what works for you.

What it Means to Have Wow Factor

A stunning display of boxwood hedges at the Chateau de Villandry in France.

A stunning display of boxwood hedges at the Chateau de Villandry in France.

People have always been drawn to nature for inexplicable reasons, creating gardens and landscapes filled with beautiful plants. Ornamental horticulture, as an industry, has prospered and grown through the centuries by cultivating beauty. Plants are bred and selected because they possess qualities that make them desirable. It could be because of the taste of the fruit, the shape or structure, or due to being pest and disease resistant but, arguably the most common trait growers, breeders, and gardeners are looking for is allure.

Paul Saunders evaluating boxwood for the National Boxwood Trials.

Paul Saunders evaluating boxwood for the National Boxwood Trials.

During the National Boxwood Trials, researchers evaluated boxwood on two major categories; impulse cosmetics and grower friendliness. Impulse cosmetics describes the immediate reaction a person has while walking by a specific variety of plant, either in a landscape or on the shelf at a garden center. Although the reaction could be either positive or negative, Paul Saunders, the initiator of the Trials, describes this initial reaction the “WOW factor.” He describes WOW as, “the factor that adds character and impact in a garden.” Even as gardeners have moved more towards plants that solve problems with pest resistance or tolerance to adverse conditions, the WOW factor remains an absolutely essential aspect for the success of any plant.

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This was an important consideration as we made the selections of NewGen Independence® and NewGen Freedom®. Both plants outperformed other generic boxwood as solution plants for pests and diseases, but not at the expense of attractiveness. With these plants, the beauty lies in the rich, shiny, deep green foliage that maintains its veneer twelve months of the year. The full, fluffy shape of the plants pulls in any passerby, encouraging them to interact with the plants.

Boxwood of different shapes and sizes on display.

Boxwood of different shapes and sizes on display.

NewGen Independence® has a more elegant style, sought after for more formal garden settings. The deep green foliage stands out as a specimen or serves to accentuate brightly colored flowers around it. The strong branches give it a rounded habit that withstands even heavy snow loads providing grace in the garden through every season.

Example of the rounded habit of NewGen Independence®.

Example of the rounded habit of NewGen Independence®.

Rich, dark, shiny foliage of NewGen Independence®.

Rich, dark, shiny foliage of NewGen Independence®.

NewGen Independence® accentuating purple Verbena.

NewGen Independence® accentuating purple Verbena.

NewGen Freedom® stands out because of its its shiny green foliage and uniform habit. In a landscape it appears fluffy, inviting you to touch and connect with it, without sacrificing its structure.

Shiny green foliage of NewGen Freedom®.

Shiny green foliage of NewGen Freedom®.

An example of the vertical structure of NewGen Freedom®.

An example of the vertical structure of NewGen Freedom®.

NewGen Freedon® with its fluffy, inviting shape lining this front walkway.

NewGen Freedon® with its fluffy, inviting shape lining this front walkway.

Though boxwood may lack some of the more flamboyant characteristics that catch the eye of onlookers such as bright flowers or colorful foliage, they have a timeless elegance, accentuating any landscape. Boxwood are known for providing structure and being malleable to fit a specific need. NewGen Independence® and NewGen Freedom® provide that and more. These plants were chosen not only as the problem solvers they are, but for their timeless beauty, lasting in the landscape for generations to come.

Boxwood gardens at the Chateau de Villandry.

Boxwood gardens at the Chateau de Villandry.

An impressive boxwood maze in a formal garden in France.

An impressive boxwood maze in a formal garden in France.

Benefits of Mulching Boxwood

Boxwood in the landscape with a think layer of mulch.

Boxwood in the landscape with a think layer of mulch.

Mulching is a common landscape practice that is used to suppress unwanted weeds, reduce evaporation from the soil, and encourage proper soil ecology and structure while being visually appealing. Recent research has also shed light that mulching can be an effective tool to aid in pest and disease management. Earlier this year, Virginia Tech published data from a two-year study showing that mulching can be a great tool to help prevent Boxwood Blight.

The experiment was set up in two locations, one being an old nursery in Low Gap, North Carolina and the other a residential landscape near Richmond, Virginia, both previously devastated by Boxwood Blight. This field trial consisted of both mulched and non-mulched treatments and was done for two years under normal environmental conditions. The goal of this study was to evaluate mulch as a physical barrier to prevent the soil inoculum from splashing onto healthy plants.

The fungal pathogen Boxwood Blight (Calonectria pseudonaviculata) produces heavy, sticky spores on diseased leaves that fall to the soil. There is no evidence to date of the pathogen attacking boxwood roots, so it was thought that providing a physical barrier of mulch would prevent the inoculum from splashing onto the leaves where the pathogen can affect the plant. The experiment used containerized ‘Justin Brouwers’ boxwood which are known to be highly susceptible to Boxwood Blight, that were rotated through mulched and non-mulched plots at 1-to-2-week intervals.

A freshly mulched bed of NewGen Independence® and perennials.

A freshly mulched bed of NewGen Independence® and perennials.

Results of the experiment showed clear distinction between the mulched and non-mulched plants. The mulching reduced the number of Boxwood Blight lesions by up to 97%! Even the scientists working on the project were amazed by the unbelievable difference that mulch made. Although for a long time it was thought that mulching boxwood plants was a bad idea but, this study shows that it can be an exceptionally effective tool for Blight control. Below you will find a downloadable PDF of these findings. Saunders Brothers Nursery worked with Chuan Hong and his team to provide plant material for the experiment.

Boxwood blight is a multi-faceted disease that can be overcome with smarter growing practices and understanding. Mulching has been proven to be another very simple and accessible tool that can help prevent this disease.

Highlights from Cultivate 2019

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The Cultivate show, hosted by AmericanHort, takes place in Columbus, Ohio and attracts horticulturists from all over the globe. Although the show did not begin until Sunday, Columbus was buzzing with growers, retailers, and enthusiasts on Saturday. Many attendees were able to enjoy tours, workshops, and other educational sessions. The NewGen™ team took some time on Saturday to get out of the city and spend the afternoon touring Decker Nursery, one of the NewGen™ liner producers. It was great to see their operation and the innovative ways they are producing liners and finished material. We even got to sneak a peek at some of the early NewGen™ liners that will be shipped out to our licensees next spring!

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Sunday began the trade show and our first chance to talk to many of the attendees about NewGen Independence® and NewGen Freedom®. With the formal introduction of our first two selections just weeks before the show, this provided and exciting opportunity for growers and retailers to experience the plants. These introductions were on display at the Willioway Nursery booth, along with the new plants display.

The Saunders Brothers Team at the Retail Choice Awards.

The Saunders Brothers Team at the Retail Choice Awards.

Monday brought another day of exciting educational classes and another day of the trade show. The highlight of the day was the Retail Choice Awards sponsored by the Garden Center Group. The judges evaluated 70 new products and plants on the market, and chose 15 to be recognized. NewGen™ Boxwood was chosen as one of these award recipients! We are excited and honored to stand alongside the most innovative products on the market for 2019/2020.

As the show came to a close on Tuesday, we said our goodbyes to our friends and colleagues in Columbus. It was a great opportunity to share more about our story with our peers and we look forward to sharing more next year.