By Stephanie Pratt, InstantHedge
Photographs courtesy of InstantHedge
Boxwood (Buxus sp.) is a wildly popular evergreen shrub that has been used in landscapes for centuries. It fits in any garden style, from very formal (Versailles) to very casual. They are the go-to option for low-maintenance, evergreen hedges.
In recent years, boxwoods in Europe and the U.S. have been plagued by a variety of different pest issues, from boxwood leafminer insects to the boxwood blight fungus to the more recent box tree moth (Cydalima perspectalis),whose caterpillar consumes entire shrubs in a matter of days. Gardeners everywhere are wringing their hands with worry for their existing boxwood plantings, while the USDA and boxwood growers are implementing extreme measures to try to keep boxwood production clean. Plant breeders are trying to develop boxwood varieties that are resistant to all these problems, with limited success.
The good news is that for the most part it is still safe to plant boxwoods as long as they are clean and maintained properly (proper drip irrigation, fertilizer, cleaning up leaf debris, mulching, and fungicides if needed). However, in areas that are especially problematic for blight and leafminer, it is best to plant something not in the Buxaceae family.
While it’s easy to say, “just plant something else,” it’s harder to find a good option that fits all the criteria: Boxwoods are easy to grow, low maintenance, evergreen, deer and rabbit proof, tolerant of sun and shade, and able to thrive in a wide variety of climates and soil types.
InstantHedge has just released an incredible replacement plant in their MiniHedge size that checks nearly all of the same boxes: box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida). Its foliage looks incredibly similar to boxwood, and the only real differences are the growth rate (box honeysuckle grows 1-2 feet per year, while boxwood grow 6-12 inches per year, depending on variety) and cold hardiness (box honeysuckle is hardy to USDA Zone 6 while some boxwood varieties can be hardy to Zone 4). Boxwood leafminer and blight tend to be more problematic in areas with warm, humid summers, so those are the locations that should really prioritize disease-free alternatives.
Box honeysuckle sports glossy, evergreen leaves, fragrant white flowers in spring, and small fruits that are loved by birds.
They grow quickly, so for a nice, clipped look you’ll want to prune them twice per year, once in summer and once in fall. You can also let them grow looser for a more relaxed look. These shrubs are ideal for maintaining from 3 feet tall up to 6 feet tall.
Box honeysuckle can be purchased as a MiniHedge: a finished hedge unit that is 32 inches long and 18 inches tall. This makes it possible to plant a beautiful, finished box honeysuckle in one day! Simply dig a trench 7 inches deep and at least 12 inches wide, set the hedge units in the trench end-to-end, backfill, water, and you’re done.
So don’t give up hope. Growing a “box hedge” doesn’t need to be stressful!
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