ISSUE 28  |  Bastille Day

Gardenista Roundup: For Love of Boxwood

February 12, 2016 7:00 AM

BY Barbara Peck

When you hear the word boxwood, do you think Versailles? In that French feat of landscaping splendor, boxwood is clipped and pruned and trained into submission, as hedges and edging and even tapestries. But this shrub known for its obedient nature and pleasantly pungent scent can easily make itself at home in all sorts of gardens. Here’s a sampling:

Normandy Chateau by Eric Sander

Above: Let’s get this out of the way: the classic French chateau, the neatly clipped boxwood hedges. Chateau d’O in Normandy dates back to 1484, but its gardens were reimagined by the French landscape designer Louis Benech (read more about him in Louis Benech: Twelve French Gardens). Photograph by Eric Sander.

What’s not to like? It’s beautiful in its formal way, of course. But boxwood can do so much more.


Above: Now for something completely different. In another French garden, this time in Provence, former Hermí¨s designer Nicole de Vésian pushed boxwood to the forefront rather than relegating it to a supporting role. And she did it by pruning her boxwood shrubs into pillowy, languorous clouds. Read more in A Magical Garden Where Clouds Grow on a Hillside in Provence. Photograph via La Dolce Vita California.


Above: When two art collectors bought a 17th-century castle in the Netherlands–with a moat, no less–they found they loved the garden most of all. Here, fancifully clipped boxwood and the moat beyond. Read about Hedge House, the modern gallery they built, in All-in-One Henhouse, Toolshed, and Art Gallery. Photograph courtesy of Wiel Arets Architects.


Above: Who needs flowers when you have 50 shades of green? The late British interior designer David Hicks planted his romantic garden at The Grove, in Oxfordshire. Here, topiarized boxwood grows in bottomless containers that reduce the need to water. “The inspiration was mainly labor-saving,” says Hicks’s son, designer Ashley Hicks, “but also to give a look of orange trees at Versailles, albeit on a slightly smaller scale.” Read more in Brit Style: The Garden With (Almost) No Flowers. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.


Above: A looser topiarized look can also work, as shown by the slightly shaggy boxwood hedges at Dan Pearson’s Old Rectory, in the heart of a Cotswolds village. Elsewhere on the property, blowsy wildflower meadows attest to what the designer calls his “relaxed and naturalistic” approach.


Above: Gardenista editors were green with envy over this garden in Greenwich, CT. Landscape designer Madison Cox conceived the rounded hedges that give it a fairytale look. Photograph via Architectural Digest.


Above: At his garden in Garrison, NY, interior designer Juan Montoya capitalized on boxwood’s sculptural quality and deep green hue. Boxwood could be considered too formal for this type of landscape, but Mntoya dotted large areas in a seemingly random pattern that adds visual interest. Read more in Garden Visit: La Formentera in Garrison, NY. Photograph by Eric Piasecki.


Above: We love this well-proportioned townhouse garden in Brooklyn, where Susan Welti of Foras Studio clipped boxwood into balls and a cube. She added other plants that can withstand city heat: Solomon’s seal, Russian sage, Mexican feather grass, and hydrangeas. For more of this garden, see Modern Brooklyn Backyard on a Budget.

Andrea Cochran Atherton Residence, Gardenista

Above: Waves of boxwood break over a garden in Atherton, CA, designed by Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, a member of the Gardenista and Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory.

In recent years, this beloved garden standby has become susceptible to a fungal disease called box blight, especially in England. Many gardeners are giving up and replacing their box with something hardier. Though it may seem like admitting defeat, we offer this advice in How to Eliminate Boxwood Blight: Plant a Different Shrub. But many boxwood lovers remain steadfast in their support, armed with chemical fungicide–and hope.