Box is the most orderly plant that you will find in the garden. Box or Buxus sempervirens is an evergreen and fine leaved plant with dense growth making it ideal for sculpting into all sorts of shapes from topiary box elephants, to simple box balls and of course the neat an formal network of box parterres that have been the calling card of many landscape gardeners since the early 18th Century
Some of the best explains of box hedging parterres can be seen across England and Europe with the Westbury Court in Gloucestershire having a spectacular formal garden. Of course this box hedge has been in place since the early 17th century and was again restored in the mid 90s. So what sort of maintenance would be required to keep a box hedge looking its best for decades? A dedicated gardener for one !
Box hedging can grow about 10cm a year in good growing conditions, yet a box hedge that is centuries old can be maintained at a height of 30cm if clipped regularly. If a box hedge is left unclipped then it can reach a height of about 10m
Different gardeners will trim their box hedging in different ways but the most common method is to trim twice a year. In the Uk, Derby day is the beginning of the box cutting season. The first week of June sees the national derby horse racing event and this coincides with the first cutting of box hedging
You can start cutting back box hedging once it has reached it final growing height. So if you want a box hedge of 60cm then you should let it grow unchecked for about 4 years until is has reached that height. Then in June you can start to cut it back
When cutting back cut hedging to approx. 5cm below the required final height and this will allow the hedge to recover and grow again. The second box cutting of the year can be done in late summer or early autumn. Here you just need to tidy and lightly trim the box hedging and ensure that it is looking neat and tidy for the winter months
Every few years a box hedge will need to be thinned out. As box hedging can grow quite dense and with all the trimming over the year the canopy is likely to become very crowded, you will need to reduce the number of stem and allow light into the centre of the hedge. Every 4 or 5 year thin out 20% of the stems right back to the main central stem. In time the surrounding branches will fill out and cover up any gaps
When pruning box hedging be sure to use a clean and sharp shears. To prevent the spread of box blight avoid pruning in wet conditions and always rake up and remove cuttings after prunning