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Are there alternatives to box, the highly popular small-leaved evergreen, Buxus sempervirens? Not every case of so-called box blightis actually that. Did you know that Buxus sempervirens is also affected by another little demon called Box tree moth? It can defoliate the shrub quite quickly, and is often first noticed as fine, webbed strands within which the moth larvae feeds. They subsequently develop into hungry green caterpillars.
Where did these pests and diseases come from?
The comparatively new pest, box caterpillar, was first recorded in Kent in around 2009 and it has been gradually spreading. It is now known to be prolific in many different areas of London and gardeners have reported it in East and West Sussex, Surrey and the Home Counties. It seems to have come from China and Korea, but it has also had significant impact in Japan, Russia and many European counties.
Give it a feed
Apart from disease, box also displays signs when it's suffering from different problems. This versatile shrub often develops orange foliage as it matures. This isn't necessarily box blight. It might simply be a case of starvation. Nutrient deficiency of this nature is generally down to a lack of potash and this is easily cured. Give Buxus a few doses of high potash (potassium) fertiliser such as a general rose feed, and it often does the trick. Even box suffering from box blight can be treated, and can recover. It just takes lots of feed and time. There are several Buxus feeds that have been especially formulated and they are certainly worth buying
formal features such as parterres, knot gardens, topiary and low box hedging can look pretty awful when the plant is affected. Many gardeners are ripping out their box and replacing it with alternative, small-leafed evergreens. So, what can we use instead of box? Gardens with
Consider these alternatives to box
There are several, highly suitable alternatives to box. The most commonly suggested swap is Ilex crenata,which is often called Japanese holly.
One variety in particular is proving to be highly effective, and this is Ilex crenata Convexa. It has small, glossy dark green foliage and it is dense and bushy. An ideal candidate for clipping. Then there's the shrubby
There are other alternatives to box ...
If this doesn't appeal, the Euonymus genus provides a whole host of possibilities as alternatives to box, with oodles of potential lookalikes.
There's a variety called E. Jean Hugues which looks very much like Buxus and is just as accommodating. There's also Euonymus japonicus Microphyllus Pulchellus and Green Rocket, both of which seem to make admirable substitutes for box.
Then there's yew, Taxus baccata, which is quite different from box but highly suitable for hedging and topiary. Always bearing in mind its toxicity, of course.
And now for something completely different
Another option for alternatives to box is to move right away from lookalikes and strike out into something quite different . Berberis, for example, will make a nice little hedge (albeit with prickles). So will lavender, rosemary, small-leaved Hebes, Teucrium and even Santolina. Some of these have aromatic foliage. This means that they are not only capable of forming neat hedges or topiary, but can also provide the bonus of scent and even flowers.
It's important to remember that there are always different choices. In fact, plant diseases, although unfortunate, do encourage us to think outside of the box. The phrase seems to be apt, in this instance!