Trimmed Boxwood in the English Landscape

In the gardens of Hampton Court above you can see clipped boxwood everywhere.

When you look for a shrub to use as an edging, you might think of Buxus, or boxwood.  If there is an essential shrub for a formal edging for the English landscape, it has to be boxwood.

The book The Genius of the Place, a collection of poems and essays by  English writers about the English Landscape Garden from 1620 to 1820, includes a section by the eighteenth century English writer Daniel Defoe, from his work called  A Tour Thro’ The Whole Island of Great Britain.  He wrote: “Nothing making so fair and regular an Edging as Box, or is so soon brought to its Perfection.”  In that section he was discussing the gardens at Hampton Court.

Last summer I had an opportunity to visit  Hampton Court, home since the eighteenth century to the monarchy and located in the London suburb of Richmond.  The gardens have, of course, been restored and maintained meticulously, and include many rows of well-trimmed boxwood.

Boxwood shrubs assumed at important role in American landscape  as well. The nurseryman Thomas Meehan from Philadelphia wrote in his magazine Gardener’s Monthly in March of 1861: “This is the proper season to lay down box edgings. To make them properly, the soil along the line of the edge should be first dug, and then trod very hard and firm, so that the soil may sink evenly together, or the line will present ugly looking undulations in time.”

Boxwood continues to serve as an edging in the landscape.  Here in the Northeast at the end of August I purchased six potted boxwood plants called Buxus sermpiverens, the label’s name for  this evergreen shrub reads ‘Common English Boxwood’. I plan to use them next spring in an edging along the driveway.

Do you use box edging in your garden?  How do you keep it trimmed?

 

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