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A Tale of Two Boxwoods

Report From An Opinionated Gardener – January 20

Two years ago I added some evergreens to the entry garden. This former-lawn stretches from the end of the driveway across the front of the house and is bordered on two sides by a lovely stonewall. Since the combination of lavender-blue, coral, yellow and white makes me happy, I decided to plant this area around that color scheme.

Most of the plants I choose for this garden are perennials although there is always space to tuck in some annuals for bridge color. As much as I love flowering perennials and annuals, however, I believe that most gardens are improved by the addition of some evergreens.

For this area I chose two Soft Touch pines to flank the walk that leads to the steps and the vegetable garden. To frame the path to the front door, I picked two boxwoods. What was I thinking?

First of all, boxwood doesn’t do all that well around here. It always looks fantastic in those winter photos in The English Garden magazine…the neatly clipped round shrubs dusted with snow are lovely. But on Cape Cod these plants are either an ugly winter-burned orange color or are buried under piles of frozen precipitation. No light dustings of snowflakes here.

So I ask again: What was I thinking?

I guess I was thinking that I’d moved to Great Britain.

The boxwood that is closest to the driveway has been covered with a snow bank for about four weeks. Squashed is probably a better description. On the other side of the walkway the second boxwood remains fairly attractive. We’ll see how long the green foliage lasts when the temperatures dip into the single digits this weekend.

Gardeners and non-gardeners alike, sometimes we act on what we know to be true, and in other instances we proceed based on what we wish were true.

See that tiny boxwood on the right of the path? The other one is under that snow bank on the left. It got smashed by a similar load of snow last year and I foolishly thought I could revive it...yes, it lived and was lopsided all last summer. Now it is buried again and is undoubtedly more lopsided than before.

4 comments to A Tale of Two Boxwoods

  • It’s so hard to design anything to soften the edges of a driveway or walk in New England. There is always the snowplow issue. When I see magazine photos of lovely woody plantings surrounding an entrance or near a mailbox or at the edge of the drive, I always think “but where do you put the snow?” It’s discouraging to design your garden around two months of the year. Your poor, poor boxwood!

  • Yes, Laurrie! When I first moved here I had this great vision of placing some very large hypertufa troughs along the edge between this entry garden and the driveway. What a perfect way to make the transition from asphalt to garden, I thought. And then I thought again. What would the snow plow do to those hypertufa troughs after the first heavy snow? Ram right into them, of course! Oh well….

  • My live-in snow-blower guy is also my live-in garden laborer. Every time I go to plant something “too close” to the driveway in summer, he reminds me that THAT’S where he pushes the snow in January and February. Thank goodness for spouses who fail to be dazzled by our brilliant design ideas!

  • Well, as far as driveways go, it seems like perennials are always a safe bet. Ornamental grasses might offer some winter interest as well ( at least until the plow comes along to smash them down).
    As one who does plow in the winter, can I offer this bit of advice? Driveway markers are so helpful! It is so unfortunate when you think you know where the edge of the driveway is, only to roll up a good chunk of sod along the way. OUCH!! Of coarse I always go back in the Spring to fix it up, but I’ve started asking all of my clients that don’t already use these things if I can put some in for them.