A Different Kind of Christmas Box

I have had so much fun growing boxwood, especially at Christmastime, because little plants grown from rooted cuttings make such delightful and unusual gifts. A tiny green bush (perhaps only three or four inches high) in an attractive container, dressed up with some berried twigs and perhaps a ribbon or bow, makes a flattering present for a garden-loving friend. It also marks you as a discriminating giver who avoids the commonplace and compliments your friends by observing their interests and tastes in selecting gifts for them.

Boxwood shrubsAlthough I can hardly bear to throw away the smallest twig of this aristocratic of shrubs, I tell myself that it was not altogether the Scottish in me that started me on the hobby of rooting boxwood. We are fortunate enough to have growing on our place two handsome, century old specimens of the true English, dwarf, or border boxwood. We regard them as valuable living antiques to be saved, and passed along to future generations. Therefore we try to give them every care. Authorities agree that a sturdier and handsomer plant results when the outer sheets are occasionally thinned out a bit to admit light into the interior. So we always have clippings on hand after pruning the bushes. Common box will root readily from softwood cuttings taken during the first weeks of July and there is little need for any special treatment. Sometimes, even a slow-growing boxwood has to be kept in shape and within the limits of its location.

I have found such clippings exceedingly easy to root and, later, to transplant. They ask only to be thoroughly and regularly watered after being moved. As soon as cuttings are made and before they can dry out, I place them, about half their length deep, in loamy soil that is loose, absorbent, and well drained. I have grown them with good results in shade, half-shade, and full sun, but always I give them plenty of water. The time required to grow a plant suitable for a gift depends on the size and type of cutting you start with. A good sized, well branched slip will be sufficiently bushy and symmetrical in the few months that it takes to make a good growth of roots. Boxwood shrubsBut even a single, slender shoot will, in two or three years, round out into a satisfactory, fairly compact little specimen, specially if given plenty of room and not crowded up against others in a flat, frame, or bench. Once you get started with your planting, you can have some little plants rounding into shape every fall.

In a milder climate, cuttings can be rooted at practically any time. In colder regions, if they are started outdoors in spring and kept moist throughout the summer, they should, have a sufficiently vigorous root system by fall so they can be transplanted. Transfer them to either a hotbed or green-house and keep until it is time to dress them up for the holidays.

Boxwood shrubsI usually choose my gift plants on the basis of form and size to fit the selected containers, or the other way around. To add the festive touch, sprigs of brightly colored fruits can be stuck in the soil around the plant, or the berries can be tied to its branches with coarse tread. Holly, Japanese Barberry, Kumquat, Cranberry, Winterberry are a few of the materials that can be used. If the container is an old ginger jar or pretty piece of pottery, it lends additional charm.

But even in an ordinary small clay flowerpot, covered with Christmas paper and tied with a cheery bow, this little plant makes a holiday gift that is enthusiastically received.

For, of course, after it has been enjoyed for as long as the holiday spirit lasts (and longer), and at the first favorable opportunity, it can be set out in the garden as the beginning of a lovely boxwood border or a special jewel in a friendship collection.

Now you may say this is a great idea but I can’t make it happen this year and that is true. But next spring and summer you will be able to start the process and make it happen for next Christmas. As for this year nurseries and even some department stores are selling small shrubs that you can use for the same purpose only they won’t be a product of your own hands or garden.

Give something living for Christmas this year to the gardener lover in you’re your circle of friends.

Continually developing “ideas for living”

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008 at 2:40 am and is filed under Ideas. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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