Gardening: Hedge fund

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Buxus sempervirens may not be the biggest shrub in the business, but it’s a tough little cookie and it can battle it out with the best when the weather’s at its worst.

It also makes a smashing, tightly-packed evergreen hedge. Which is so many people have planted it. It won’t make a massive, impenetrable barrier, but it forms a hardy, attractive edge to a bed or border and draws a distinctive demarcation line.

It loves the sun but it’s also one of the relatively few plants that is content in shade, in dryish or dampish ground, and never looks to be in a hurry to try to take over. In all, it’s extremely accommodating, attractive and – if you shop around or are willing to grow your own – relatively cheap.

All of the above are good reasons to grow it. But now it’s under threat – not just from a particularly unpleasant blight, but also from a new threat – the box tree moth, which appeared in the UK in 2008 but which is now posing a real problem as it marches north, east, south and west.

What can we do? Firstly, ensure that any box we buy is blight and bug free. Then keep an eye out for possible problems and infestations. If a caterpillar appears, pick if off and dispose of it. Garden hygiene is also vital – at the very least, clear up clippings

For a Box hedge to be effective, individual plants need to be packed together. Use one perfectly-proportioned little plantlet (10ins high or thereabouts) every nine inches, popping the roots through into a compost-filled trench below. Press down firmly and move on to the next plant in the line.

The Box ‘hedge’ can be left to get on with establishing itself, each plant burying its roots into the nutritious soul. Come May or perhaps even June, pay them another visit, this time armed with sharp secateurs, and give them a very gentle, tidying trim.

They shouldn’t need watering very often and they shouldn’t need trimming again until the end of the year.

Box isn’t the fastest-growing plant, but, hopefully, in a couple of years and without the attention of fungal blight or invasive caterpillar, the hedge will be a formidable 18ins tall.

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