Endless Variety Among Evergreens: Take Boxwood for Example

Boxwoods offer the gardener a rich variety from which to choose. There are nearly 100 naturally occurring species of this evergreen landscape plant. Most are native to the Caribbean Islands, East Asia, and central Europe. There are also about 300 different boxwood cultivars that grow in the northern Temperate Zone. The National Boxwood collection at the U.S. National Arboretum contains nearly 140 different species and cultivars of boxwood. It is one of the most comprehensive living collections of boxwood in the world.

Boxwood (Buxus sp.) is an ornamental, broad-leaved, evergreen shrub that has enriched gardens for centuries. The name derives from the elegant boxes made of boxwood that ladies in ancient Rome and Greece used to store jewelry. Because of its density, strength, and uniformity, the wood of boxwood was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to make writing tablets, musical instruments, spinning tops, combs, jewelry cases, carved ornaments, inlays and veneers.

Today there are many landscape uses for boxwood. Buxus microphylla ‘Compacta’ and B. microphylla var. japonica ‘Morris Dwarf’ are used in bonsai. B. sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ is often referred to as edging boxwood because of its extensive use as a border in parterre gardens. Boxwood has long been used as topiary in North America. Europe (France in particular) has great enthusiasm for boxwood topiary.

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