Gardening Magazine

Box Alternatives

By Outofmyshed @OutofmyShed

Box alternativesEveryone loves a box parterre (don’t they?). Back in June 2012, fellow blogger Veronica, from Through the garden gate, and I went to see the open gardens in Amsterdam. We had a super (if a tad exhausting) weekend looking at many hidden gems in the city.

Box alternatives

A recurrent theme was definitely box parterres.

Box alternatives
Not present in every garden we visited, but quite a few.

Box alternatives
There was also the gorgeously curvaceous box sculptures at Kerkstraat 67,

Box alternatives
and the box dividers at the ever-so-delicious De Kas restaurant (just outside the city centre).

However, there’s a problem. I’m not sure if they exist in Amsterdam, but here in London, box-tree caterpillars have arrived in force over the last few years. Not only does box hedging have to contend with box blight, but these blighters can wreck a lovely bit of hedging in no time and many gardeners are looking out for alternatives.

By the way, the moth that lays its eggs measures about an inch (2.5cm) and is white with dark brown edges, and pheromone traps will be able to let you know if they are in your area. As it’s so mild of late, much to my dismay, new moths are still arriving in the traps I have.

If spotted in time, you can spray your box with chemicals, but this is a lengthy process if you have a lot of hedging  and impossible if you’re an organic gardener or if the hedging is surrounding edibles.

Another gardener I know says he sprays the box with strong jets of water, but the box doesn’t like this much either.

Box alternatives
So what could you use instead? Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly) and Lonicera nitida  are now being promoted by hedging companies and on a recent trip to Haddon Hall in Derbyshire I was really inspired by their parterres.

Box alternatives

The outer edging is grown from Teucrium x lucidrys (hedge Germander, with pink flower spikes in late summer)

Box alternatives

and the inner divides are grown from rosemary and lavender.

Box alternatives
The look isn’t as tight and clipped as box, but I like this softer look (especially with the backdrop of an amazing Tudor manor house) and the fact that the whole parterre is grown from herbs. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to fend off the caterpillars, so its good to know that there are other plants out there that will be able to do the trick.


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