I want to plant a low hedge of boxwood, roughly 2 feet tall, to serve as a border around an English-style perennial garden. In the last couple years, I have seen boxwoods with some bad winter burn. Can you recommend a few varieties that are low-growing and hardy to Michigan winters?
Many boxwoods have suffered through our recent winters. Unfortunately, even the most hardy boxwood varieties may have difficulties surviving our Michigan winters unless they receive the proper soil conditions and protection from winter sun and wind.
For starters, boxwood should be planted in a very well-drained, slightly acidic soil (pH 5.5 – 6.5). Heavier soils should be thoroughly worked to incorporate amendments such as sphagnum peat and pine bark. Prepare an area at least twice the diameter of the eventual plant size and for the length of the hedge. Mulching the soil surface is also important to keep roots cool and evenly moist, while providing protection from winter cold.
Choosing the proper location for planting boxwood is also important. Ideally, they should receive no direct winter winds and little direct sun from the south and west. This means eastern exposures provide the best protection from damaging elements. Other microclimates such as courtyards, evergreen screens and wooded areas may also work as long as they provide this same type of protection.
For varieties that stand up better to Michigan winters, try Korean Littleleaf, Winter Gem or hybrids such as Green Gem and Green Velvet.