Boxwoods (Buxus spp.) make excellent hedges because they fill in well from top to bottom and are evergreen for year-round foliage. The various species and cultivars range in size from about 1 foot tall to over 20 feet tall, and include shapes from rounded to columnar, which can be grown together and shaped as a hedge. Most boxwoods grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, depending on the species.
1. Low Border Hedges
Low box hedges work well as borders because they're short enough to see plants behind them, while still discouraging people from walking into unwanted garden areas. Use a low hedge to define flowerbeds or along walkways to keep traffic from straying off the path and onto your grass. A ring of boxwood hedges directly below a tree's canopy blocks traffic to protect the roots from trampling. A low border requires a short boxwood variety that grows no more than 2 feet tall, such as dwarf English boxwood (Buxus sempervirens "Suffruticosa"), which grows in USDA zones 5 through 8 or "Morris Midget" (Buxus microphylla var. japonica "Morris Midget"), which grows in USDA zones 5 through 9. These cultivars grow slowly in a compact shape, requiring little pruning to maintain.
2. Privacy Screen
Dense boxwood hedges work just as well as expensive privacy fences at blocking the view of your property from your neighbor's yard, the street or alleyway. The standard height for a backyard privacy fence is 6 feet tall, but 10 feet is a better height if you want the hedge to also act as a wind screen. American boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), which grows in USDA zones 5 through 8, planted about 4 feet apart grows together to form a tight hedge and with heights of up to 15 feet, you can easily trim it to maintain a 6- to 10-foot height. Set the boxwood plant row far enough in from the property line to allow room for them to grow up to 15 feet wide.
3. Define Spaces
Backyards are often subdivided into separate areas, such as for a garden pond, patio, vegetable garden and fire pit, and you can use box hedges to create greater separation to divide these spaces. They also serve as camouflage, such as if you prefer to keep your garden shed hidden from view while relaxing in a canopy under a shade tree. Low hedges work well when you simply want to outline and define the spaces, but you need taller boxwoods for camouflaging spaces and structures.
4. Outdoor Playroom
Children like having a space all to themselves and the backyard is no exception. You can use boxwood hedges to create a secret outdoor playroom where you can contain their outdoor toys or a sandbox. If you have a large yard, you can plant box hedges to create a maze leading to the hidden room in a corner of the yard. Safety is always important for outdoor play time, so choose a variety such as "Green Mound" (Buxus "Green Mound"), which grows in USDA zones 5 through 8, which only grows up to 3 feet tall, providing enough privacy for the kids while still allowing you to see them over the hedge.
- Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension: Selecting Landscape Plants: Boxwoods
- Fine Gardening: Genus Buxus (Boxwood, Box)
- Royal Horticultural Society: Box
- North Carolina State University Horticulture: Growing Boxwoods in the Landscape
- Colorado State University Extension: Hedges
- Purdue University Department of Horticulture: Hedges
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