When everything else is floppy, frosty or fallow, box is your man.

Buxus sempervirens is a small-leaved evergreen shrub. Those small, densely-packed leaves allow the plants to be clipped – perhaps twice or three times each year in the growing season – into bold shapes with sharp edges.

Why is that useful? Well like faces, gardens need a good bone structure to carry on looking good…particularly when they’re tired or weathering the winter. And the sharper the bones, the smarter the garden looks.

Box can be grown as low hedging and is famous for it’s part in creating Elizabethan knot gardens or parterres. The dense green edging can encompass and retain herbs, vegetables or rampant coloured perennials.

Now it is more often used as a punctuation or structural pause in pots or borders. Box can be teased into cones, spirals and even animal shapes…the house opposite me has a parade of wobbly box squirrels skipping down the top of their hedging; hilarious.

The classic shape, though, is the box ball, which I think looks best in threes or fives of varying height, interplanted with silvery fluffs and white spires; a very English loveliness.

But although the ball and the low parterre hedge will be perennially popular, let me make the case for the box square – a more masculine punctuation in the garden. A square or rectangle has gravitas; it commands the eye to rest on it just that little longer.

Finally, want to go avant garde and feeling artistic with the clippers? Try ‘cloud pruning’ box into waves and undulations over time, perhaps adding the odd sphere poking out for fun.

box recs
cool green & white
Lucciano Chelsea box and fluff
Box in wooden Belgian pot
box cube in wood & metal pot
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box recs thumbnail
cool green & white thumbnail
Lucciano Chelsea box and fluff thumbnail
Box in wooden Belgian pot thumbnail
box cube in wood & metal pot thumbnail

You can grow box in well-drained soil in sun or part shade.