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Planting a new box hedge?

Am I completely deluded to consider this? I have always dreamed of having a mid-height (70cm) untrimmed (i.e. not square, more natural looking) box hedge around my front garden. I estimate buying the plants would cost about 300 pounds. None of my neighbours in the area have box blight or box tree caterpillar (yet!?). Is it foolish to attempt this or should I give it a go? (I should say I am not prepared to use chemicals of any kind in my garden.) I am also concerned that I will be introducing box tree pests into the area by buying in box. Any tips on how I can minimise the chance of this happening?

Comments (7)

  1. Grower

    Angie's Garden

    My brother planted a box hedge around 4 years ago and found the most cost effective way other than cuttings is those trays of 6 or 8 young plants available in a well known DIY store. His hedge is now almost 10 inches in height. This may of course might not give you the instant hedge you want but may reduce your costs.
    Have you considered Lonicera nitida, smaller leafed but similar effect. L nitida Baggesen's Gold is a nice one. Again, might prove costly if using larger sized plants.

  2. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    In my experience, Lonicera nitida is a wild, sprawling, fast-growing, lax, shrub: if you want it for a hedge, you will have to cut it at least 2-3 times a year, which means it won't be the informal type of hedge you wrote about, and it does tend to throw out long "arms" which quickly looks very untidy.

    Angie is spot on with the suggestion to buy a pack of small box plants from a B&Q, or Homebase-type shop (I think we can be brave and use the names - in the gardening world they are referred to as "the sheds" but this can cause confusion!), you can usually get a pack of 6 or 10 small plants for a tenner, and usually you will find that each "cell" actually contains 3-4 individual plants. This is a mean trick by which they make small young plants look healthy and bushy, but it can work in your favour, as you can soak them well, then carefully pull the root balls apart, to get a much larger number of plants.

    The key to avoiding box blight problems is to allow good air circulation between and around the plants: my personal suggestion is to set out the carefully split-up little box plants with quite wide gaps between them - don't crowd them together to get a dense hedge. However tall they are, put them about that distance apart. Then, in a couple of years' time, take out every alternate one. I would pot up and keep these removed plants - use them for topiary, for putting in decorative pots, and to use as replacements if any of the hedge ones should suffer death or damage.

    As for bringing in pests, well done you, for even thinking about it! The answer there is to check plants carefully before buying them, and then literally give the plants a thorough washing with a hosepipe as soon as you get them home: turn them upside down (the root balls are usually very dense and secure in those small packs) and jet wash all debris, dirt, bugs etc off, preferably over a grass verge outside your garden!! Shake them dry, stand them upright and let them drain. Then hang on for a fortnight or so before you plant them out, and keep checking them very closely, removing any dead or icky looking leaves. You can check the internet for symptoms of box disease, so that you know what you are looking for: and if you find any, take them straight back for a refund.

  3. Grower


    Thanks both!

    I should have said that I don't mind the financial investment, as long as I can be reasonably certain the hedge will live for a long time. I would hate to plant the box hedge, then have it killed by blight and caterpillars in five years and then having to start all over again with small Ilex crenata or similar which will take another five years to grow to the same size...

    Big DIY corporations make me uncomfortable in a whole variety of ways. I don't like how they treat their staff, their local communities - or their plants. ;-) I think I'll rather try and find a local, preferably organic nursery.

    Great tip about spacing and thinning out. I wouldn't have thought of that. I also like the sound of the "power shower" and the two week quarantine. I'll definitely do that!

  4. Grower

    Paul & Valerie Guppy

    i planted up dwarf hedges from cuttings,plus several topiary specimens.They looked lovely until blight struck ,and I lost all but one of the topiary and all the hedges.heartbreaking when you have grown something for several years .

  5. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Paul, I feel your pain.

    In a way, that's the down side of taking cuttings (although I love propagating this way, and will alway do so!) because every new plant is a clone of the original, so if one plant becomes susceptible to disease, well, they tend to all fall prey to it.

    Also, they are all getting "middle aged" at the same time (aren't we all, ha! ha!)

    Will you buy some new plants, and start again?

  6. Grower

    Paul & Valerie Guppy

    no,we have replaced them with euonymus and lonicera.Trouble is,the lonicera seems to need to be trimmed every couple of weeks.They grow like mad.

  7. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Oh dear! As I said in an earlier comment, Lonicera nitida is a bit of a beast for hedging! It always makes me roll my eyes when the "gurus" seriously suggest it as a substitute for box!

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