It might seem early to be thinking about winter yard and garden prep, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned here in the volatile climate of the Berserkshires Berkshires, it’s that you can never plan too far ahead. Today we’re taking a look at boxwoods, one of our all-time favorite garden plants for its versatility, its ease of maintenance, and its ease of adaptation and shaping to all sorts of garden spaces.
While some varieties, like Buxus ‘Winter Gem,’ are pretty weather-resistant, most boxwoods are susceptible to cold winds and winter sunscald and can use extra protection during the coldest seasons. To start prepping our boxwoods for winter, we called on Eric Ruquist, gardening guru for Bunny Williams (that’s her drool-worthy garden shown here), and got the low-down on his top tips.
1. If the boxwoods are young or just a few individual plantings, dig them up and transplant them loosely in big terracotta pots. You can give them a minor haircut, but don’t go crazy with the pruning.
2. Place potted boxwoods in an area that’s protected from high winds, such as beside a shed, garage, or greenhouse. If you can, dig a shallow hole to anchor the pots. Then cover the roots entirely with a couple of layers of compost and mulch.
3. If the boxwoods are already established in a planting bed or otherwise too large to move, again, you can prune them a bit, but not too much. Cover with a heavy layer of compost and mulch. Then you have a few options for protecting them from high winds and deep snowfall:
- Tie cut evergreen branches or burlap sacks around them.
- Create a hinged wooden “sandwich board,” or a teepee of bamboo supports and burlap over the plants.
- Craft a tall cage of chicken wire around the plantings, then fill it with leaves or hay for insulation.
4. Continue to water your boxwoods through fall, albeit less frequently than in the summer; basically, you want to keep them from drying out. Once the ground has experienced a hard freeze, the boxwoods will begin to go dormant and you can stop watering.
5. When winter arrives, in all its bitter, blowhard-y glory, resist the urge to brush minor snowfall off your boxwoods; this can actually help insulate the plants during a cold spell. However, anything more than a couple inches of snow is game for removal and will help prevent branch breakage.