One of my commenters (Nina) lost some boxwoods due to the drought last year. She has asked me for some suggestions to replace the shrubs. The area is along her foundation, in full sun, on the corner of an abutment, and next to some evergreen shrubs, including a topiaried boxwood, and what looks to be a variegated privet. I have many suggestions for her. As a person who designs gardens, and one who tries to understand the garden is NOT mine, though I may help to design it, my method of operating is to ALWAYS give the gardener a choice in what would work best, then let them pick. I have some options and grow all of these plants so I can give some insight to the homeowner to aid them in their decision. This is how I am going to help Nina.
I think Nina would be happiest with an evergreen shrub, but in order to discourage shortcuts through the particular garden, I would recommend planting barberry in the area. Berberis thunbergii, aka Barberry, cultivar 'Rose Glow' would be ideal for this area. It is deciduous, but offers great features even in the off season. The first two pictures are of my 'Rose Glow'. I like it alot, though I don't plant it by the foundation because I do so much gardening there and don't want to tangle with the thorns. Many landscapers and homeowners do like it by the foundation specifically for the thorns. It would be a definite deterrent to cutting through to the sidewalk. The foliage comes in red and would add contrast to the adjoining shrubs, it is easy care, takes full sun, and drought tolerant once established.
My next choice would be for a broad leaved evergreen shrub, the Anise tree, aka Illicium anisatum. I have grown mine for about 5 years now and I really like it alot. That is mine in the third picture. This shrub is a slow grower and can grow to a height between 6-10 feet. It can be pruned to be kept shorter, though in the 5 years I have grown mine, I have never pruned it. This shrub will do fine in full sun though a little shade would be helpful, as will regular moisture. It can tolerate dry soils once established. I can tell you I give it no special attention at all, but it does get some shade in my garden. See the cool yellow foliage coming in now? It is a good shrub. The leaves have a peculiar scent when crushed. It cannot be used to flavor food like anise, so don't try it!
Another choice in a broad leaved evergreen shrub is Ternstroemia gymnanthera, aka Japanese Cleyera. I love mine. I have also grown this shrub for 5 years like the anise. In fact, it is behind the anise so that the dark green glossy leaves show of the yellowish leaves of the anise tree to full advantage. This tree is very easy to care for. It tolerates shade and sun and is slow growing to about 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide. My Southern Living says it is a good replacement for the disease prone Red Tip Photinia. Red tips are great shrubs, disease prone or not. I have several in my landscape and I find that if they are planted in good spots, with sun and air circulation, they are not bothered overly much by disease. But cleyera is recommended to replace them if you can't tolerate a few spots. Cleyera is extremely easy to root by cuttings and layering. They look like the same throughout the year. They do flower, albeit the flower is rather insignificant. A berry usually comes from the flower but it is not a huge ornamental feature on my shrubs. The fourth picture shows my cleyera. I have not pruned mine other than to clip out long growth in order to encourage bushiness.
If Nina wants to replace the dead boxwoods with some look alikes, the Japanese hollies, aka Ilex crenata fit the bill. The fifth picture shows my 'Compacta' cultivar. Most folks can't tell the difference between Compacta and boxwood. I find the Compacta to be very adaptable, it will need the same cultural requirements as a boxwood and grows well in shade or sun. I also grow a 'Helleri' holly which is another cultivar of Japanese hollies. The Helleri holly is low growing and rounded. It has leaves like the boxwoods and is easy care. It only grows to about one or two feet or so by 3 feet.
One last alternative I want to give to Nina is the Abelia grandiflora, aka glossy abelia. I love mine. I purchased it just last summer in Jackson Tennessee at the Summer Celebration day they conducted. The particular cultivar I grow is called 'Little Richard'. It is the same as glossy abelia, but grows a bit smaller. Abelia can grow to 8 feet tall and spread 5 feet wide. Little Richard is said to grow to about 4 feet tall and wide. This is a year round interest shrub. It has great foliage which is semi evergreen. You can see from the last picture that mine has lost some of its leaves but still shows some color too. This shrub is a butterfly magnet when it blooms. I purchased my shrub in bloom in July, and it continued to bloom all the way to October! The flowers are small and tubular and there are lots of them. They are fragrant. I planted mine in my foundation and it is doing wonderfully with little help. Keep in mind I have grown it less than one year, but that does not dissuade me from recommending it because it is a well known shrub with proven abilities to please.
Long post, but I hope it helps Nina to decide what she would like in her landscape. All are good choices and would work, she need only consider her preferences on whether she would like to prune or wants color or year round interest or big or small leaves-so many choices! I personally like the barberry best, followed by the abelia as either of these two shrubs will provide interest and contrast to the border with the barberry being an excellent barrier-but we'll see what she selects. Good luck!
We'll go for another walk
in the garden....tomorrow.