Buxus - Knowledgebase Question

Long Beach, CA
Avatar for ekuehne2
Question by ekuehne2
December 12, 2005
Where can I buy this? None of the nurserys seem to carry this any more. I have two hedgerows of about 20 plants each that I planted two years ago. Dog pee has killed several near the sidewalk, and I need to replace and fill in. I planted these to be able to grow a 3-4 foot hedge that could be shaped for topiary, so I'd like to not have to rip all them out and replant another type.

Answer from NGA
December 12, 2005
Matching your existing hedge may be difficult. There are some 70 species of boxwoods, but only two are commonly found in cultivation. But those two species have given us hundreds of botanical varieties, horticultural cultivars and hybrids of garden origin to choose from. All the boxwoods have small, opposite, evergreen leaves. They produce small star shaped yellowish green pistillate (female) and staminate (male) flowers on the same plants. The flowers are not showy, but are quite fragrant. The star points are actually sepals - boxwood flowers have no petals. The flowers are in clusters consisting of a single female flower in the center, surrounded by several male flowers, recognized by their conspicuous yellow anthers. Littleleaf boxwood has very small leaves, just 3/4 in long, and considerably thinner in texture (almost transparent) than those of other boxwoods. They are elliptic-oblong, and dark green, usually turning a rather ugly bronze in winter. Littleleaf boxwood grows in a dense rounded mound, 2-3 ft tall and 3-5 ft across.

The classification of the boxwood cultivars is extremely confused and the experts have differing opinions on which cultivar belongs to which species or variety or hybrid. The Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening recognizes three botanical varieties: var. koreana (sometimes listed by others as B. sinica var. insularis) which has leaves that are rolled slightly downward and includes the most cold hardy selections; var. sinica (Chinese boxwood) which is a larger shrub or small tree to 20 ft tall, with an open, spreading habit; and var. insularis which has larger, somewhat leathery leaves and pubescent twigs. Some authorities list several boxwood cultivars under B. microphylla var. japonica, but the RHS places those cultivars in a different species, B. harlandii (Harland boxwood). Cultivars listed under B. microphylla var. koreana include: 'Winter Green' which gets 3-4 ft tall and wide, and is extremely cold hardy with foliage that stays dark green all winter; and 'Tide Hill' which gets only about 1 ft tall but spreads out to 4-5 ft across. Cultivars listed under B. microphylla var. insularis include: 'Green Gem' which is a small plant with narrow, olive green leaves; and 'Pincushion' which has leaves about 1/3 in long and grows in a low mound about 2' across. Cultivars listed under the nominate variety (B. microphylla var. microphylla) include: 'Compacta' which is extremely compact and dense, with tiny 1/4 in leaves and grows slowly to just 12 in in height; and 'Curly Locks' which has twisted branchlets and gets 3-4 ft tall. Cultivars listed under Harland boxwood (B. harlandii) by the RHS, but listed as B. microphylla var. 'Japonica' by other authors include: 'Rubra' which has yellow-orange foliage; 'National' which has a tall, erect habit to 15 ft in height; and 'Kingsville Dwarf' which has tiny leaves only 1/5 in long.

Common boxwood, a somwhat larger, more open shrub with slightly larger leaves, has even more cultivars, and there are several cultivars selected from hybridization between common and littleleaf boxwood. We said it was confusing!

If you cannot find an exact match for your existing plants, Boxwood cuttings are fairly easy to root; take semiripe tip shoots in summer and root in a moist potting medium under mist or under a plastic tent.

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