Monday, March 3, 2008

What to Plant to Replace Boxwoods?

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.


  1. Good morning to all. Good luck to you Nina on replacing your lost bushes.

  2. You sure have a lot of green in your yard this time of year Tina!

    Nina, surely with all this info you will find something to replace your lost ones...

  3. Hi Tina, Jean and Skeeter --nice day again today. We took the boat down to the river --too windy for fishing but hubby had to run some stuff thru the motor and it needed to be submerged. We had a nice walk this morning --I know this nice warm wind won't last --I believe tomorrow will be cold and rainy:( I have to remember it's only March so I should expect cold weather but this nice day stuff spoils you --I have three tulips really starting to pop up by the mailbox --I hope they come up and bloom --I planted them there, lol. The other ones were from the previous owner scattered about throughout the yard so these are MINE. :) Have a great day!

  4. dawn with peachesMarch 3, 2008 at 10:59 AM

    I agree with Skeeter, you sure have alot of green.
    Speaking of bushes, do you know anything about 9 bark? Physocarpus opulifolius?

  5. hey guys, taking a much needed break from the garden.

    mom, how did the dinner go last night? good? lots of good food you didn't have to cook?

    skeeter, it is important to landscape with both deciduous and evergreen without overdoing it. i like the evergreen structure so i have a few. plus i like the different so i try a variety. sometimes by design, sometimes by accident. you have a big variety in your garden too! nandina and boxwoods are great for color this time of year.

    dawn with peaches, yes, i actually grow ninebark. i really like it alot. i don't have the very popular 'diablo', which is the red variety. mine is more common, but blooms reliably each year. i have grown it about two years now. nice spring bloomer but unremarkable the rest of the year. do you grow it? or interested in it? its form is kind of like pg hydrangea. try it out.

    nina, one other shrub which could work is heavenly bamboo. aka nandina domestica. the tall kind. i like it alot. it has color, is evergreen, loves full sun and drought tolerant. i didn't include because it gets tall fast, but it is narrow and would go well on the corner there. it has an upright habit.

    back to the garden...oh the pain.

  6. anonymous, i forgot to say hi to you before-sorry! it is a nice day today, bit windy. yesterday was even better. good day to be in the garden. what color are your tulips? your very own! good for you!

    did hubby get his new boat trailer? hope so. it has been awhile. mr. fix it can't wait to take his out either. soon the weather and water will be warm enough.

  7. Tina, yes to good evening. Yes to good food. No I did not have to do any cooking. Just get into Christy's apartment, which is no easy chore for me, esp since she has 4 wheel drive so does not shovel her driveway and it was full of snow and ice under it all. I used my cane. I am so scared of falling I do not take any chances. Bella was there to meet us so David tried to hold her away from me but she kept getting away as she was so excited and he put his foot on her rope and then you can guess what happened! She ran around him, wrapping the rope around his legs. Then she got out
    of her collar and went inside so we finally got in.

    Dawn you did'nt say that Christy and (can't remember his name, she has so many snowboarding friends) spent the night at your place the other night. But I should have known when she was on the slopes 2 days in a row. She loved your new house.

  8. dawn with peachesMarch 3, 2008 at 2:22 PM

    I've never heard of 9 bark, it looks interesting in pictures, I'll have to try it.
    Yes, Christy and her friend spent the night, she did say she loves the house on fri before they went to the comedy show. It slipped, I think she was thinking to herself. Nikki will go in the old one and slip....I hate this house. HA! HA! HA!

  9. Hey Tina,

    I am back from Missouri...missed gabbing with my blogging friends.

    Have you ever tried inkberry (Ilex glabra)?

    It is a native evergreen shrub that I think is beautiful and would make a nice substitute for boxwood or some of the china hollies.

    I love it.


  10. Hi Tina, well the messy rainy, stormy weather is upon us tonight. We're skipping scouts --one boy didn't finish his homework on time so we can't go. Hubby still hasn't got his trailer yet --it's been 6 months:( But, we do have that old loaner thing which terrifies me. I think the tulips are variety so I won't know the colors until they actually bloom:) But, I do look forward to that nice surprise. Hubby worked on the garage today --cleaned up some more junk:) Yeah!!!! We met the girl model for a lunch date at school. It was a pretty productive day --however the wind blew the top off the chimney cover --it's a small piece but we called the chimney sweep guy and he should be by tomorrow or Thursday. I guess it was all the wind we have been experiencing lately. It doesn't look bad --just a small metal piece that sits over the top. I'm sure it's pretty important but the chimney man said we can still use the fireplace:) Hi Nina --hope you find the shrub/bush that looks good and works well in your garden. Tina has great ideas so I know one of them will work for you:) My tree that Tina recommended for a moist area of my yard is growing and doing wonderfully --we love it! I never would've known what to put there without her advice:) Not sure if I will be back on here since hubby is home tonight, kiddos aren't going to scouts so we will do something as a family --maybe some Yahtzee:) Later!

  11. Hello Everyone, another beautiful day!

    Tina thanks so much for all this information. I know you spent lots of time researching this for me. I have been on the computer reviewing each of your suggestions. As of right now I am leaning toward the Japanese Helleri Holly. I have the tall nandina at the other end of the house and it is a really nice scrub. Looking forward to some more nice weather to go check out some nurseries.

    Dawn I also looked up the ninebark and it is really pretty, I'll have to try for one of those also!

  12. Sorry about your wind damage Anonymous but I think the fireplace guy is right (and he should be) as it probably is only there to keep critters from making a nest in there. It would'nt smell good when having a fire and roasting some critter. LOL acutally on second thought it might smell good but who wants to find out? Not me.

  13. Oh I forgot to tell you Tina but at Christy'slast night I sure wish you were there to see your grandson. They put the gate up so Josh could not get to the stairs and he stood there trying to figure out how to open it!!! He was so intent on it for quite a few mintues. It was funny.

  14. dawn with peachesMarch 3, 2008 at 9:24 PM

    Hi Guys,
    Anonymous, the metal that blew off your chimney is called a chimney cap(duh). Its function is to keep the rain out. Your fireplcae will be ok unless you get a tremdious amout of rain. We have them go all the time, depending on how it broke it might be able to be screwed back on (has fins in the 4 corners) if not, you might have to order the whole thing and your guy may need to come back. Good luck.
    Nina, Doesn't ninebark look wonderful? I never knew there was such a thing. Known for the peeling of nine layers of bark. A member of the rosecea (sp) family. I'm getting one.
    Have to email Algebra "scatterplots" to my sons teacher, hope its right we spent 110$ on a graphing calculater, should do tricks for that price.

  15. mom, glad you were able to make it up the stairs to christine's place. sorry i missed joshua's antics, but ever so glad he has his mimi to see them!

    dawn with peaches, if you get a ninebark, definitely get a diablo. i will try to divide or start some cuttings of mine for you.

    anonymous, good weather for plants. love it! i put some systemic pest protection down around a prize oak and azaleas yesterday. the rain was just the ticket to water it in. i am pleased. hopefully it won't freeze tonight. i'm glad you can still use the fireplace, i know how much you all love it.

    nina, i have a helleri and i love it. it is rather low growing though. it needs no pruning and has an awesome form. my friend (deb) gave me two she didn't like. i have to do a post on her sometime. the weather will be nice soon. for nurseries i would definitely go outside of clarksville and even tennessee. i like the evansville nurseries and hopkinsville ones. maybe make a trip of it. good luck with your choice and you are welcomed.

  16. gail, i haven't tried ilex glabra. i have heard of it. does it grow well for you? and how big does it get? sounds interesting.

  17. Hi Dawn with peaches --the chimney cap still has all four screw holes in tact --so I have no idea how it came off without tearing them but that's fine with me --they said they will come out and put it back up or if need be order a new one. Thanks for you help --identifying this piece of metal:) It did rain but not too much --hubby put a small bucket in the fireplace last night --just in case.

  18. I'm a little late on this conversation but don't forget the Dwarf English Laurels ('Otto Luyken'). They are evergreen and have nice white flowers. The Japanese Hollies we had died in the warm/freeze last spring like many of the boxwoods did last year. Yew is good too! Although it is extremely poisonous so you don't want to eat it.

  19. i have otto luyken too. forgot about that one-great suggestion! it is like the anise shrub a bit. but the true laurels seem to die on me. i think it is too cold or not enough sun or something. they do good for you dave? yews are good for foundation plantings. they can get big. i have hicksii and love them, though they are slow growing and a few have died. not sure why. both good suggestions.

  20. The Cheery Laurel's have done well everywhere I've seen them in TN. I don't have any in the ground but have three in the garage waiting to get planted and 6 more cuttings rooting.