There are enough articles on this site about box hedging so the title is a bit of a fraud really - but it is there because it always amazes us how much effort people put into planting trees and shrubs and how little attention the poor things receive afterwards.
All plants benefit from a bit of TLC, but few reward their owner/grower/carer as much as box hedging plants.
Box hedges are truly a thing of beauty when they are well grown. They do not have the solemnity of yew, they are definitely smarter than privet, they are more evergreen than beech or hornbeam. They don't prickle, they forgive dreadful mistakes with clippers and shears and even when they are unclipped, box hedging plants still look neat and tidy.
However the modern curse of a box hedge is blight (and there is enough said about that elsewhere on this site as well). So this post is all about what you do if you want to plant a box hedge but you are scared of all the "death and destruction" box blight stories that are going around.
If you are a follower of this blog you will have read any number of times that we preach good hygiene as the number one weapon the gardener uses against disease. So, remembering that while box hedging may be evergreen it still drops leaves, rake them up every month or so and put them on the bonfire with your rose and fruit sweepings and prunings. Dead leaves harbour more box diseases and fungal infections than anything else.
Next, play to the strengths of evergreen plants in general and box in particular. Clip your hedge in winter. That is correct - in winter. A sneaky tactic which takes a number of fungi (that attack plants through open wounds) by surprise, is to create the wounds when the fungi are sleeping, so giving the plant time to heal. Eat your Xmas lunch and then work it off by clipping your box hedge on - spookily - Boxing Day although any time before the end of February will do fine. And despite what the books say, do not clip your box hedge in summer (on Derby Day?) unless you absolutely, positively have to. And then only ever do so on a dry day.
Box blight loves a nice, warm, moist environment in which to multiply. So do not give it one.
- Mulch your plants well so the soil holds moisture and you do not have to water.
- Having said which, it is always better that your plants have enough water in the soil rather than struggle to find it. But when watering, do so at ground level so the leaves are left as dry as possible.
- Really importantly, do not clip the top of your box hedge so it is flat. Box plants have rather "cupped" leaves that seem designed to hold moisture. By clipping the top of the hedge as a dome, or in an A shape, you reduce the ability of the leaves to catch water and create a dangerous microclimate.
- Spray your box twice a summer (on a nice dry day). Once with a copper fungicide such as Bordeaux mixture and once with a systemic one such as Scott's Roseclear. First spray in late April, second in late June.
And that is it - follow these few simple tips and your box hedge will grow to a happy and astonishingly beautiful old age.
Relax and watch your plants - or box hedging - grow.