How’s this as a substitute for boxwood?

If you’ve lost your boxwoods (Buxus), how about clipped Euonymus?

The more popular boxwood parterres have become, and they’ve become very popular, the greater the loss if they die. After two harsh winters in a row, 2014 and 2015, I know of many who lost their boxwoods and, with them, the backbone of their formal gardens. Here’s a potential alternative.

Have you seen tightly clipped Euonymus used in quite this way before? I thought it was rather a cool idea. It wouldn’t have to be variegated. While evergreens such as yew (Taxus) could also be used, if you’re looking for a texture with leaves rather than needles, in a cooler climate this might be ideal.

Wish I could give credit to the designer for this. For spotting it, because it’s my month of gratitude, I’m grateful to my neck, always on swivel during walks to look at
gardens (though sometimes it leads me to trip in a highly undignified fashion – but, of course, I meant to do that).

What do you think of it? The Euonymus, that is, and not my neck. The less said of that, the better.


    1. Hi, Laura. Euonymus can get scale (as can many other woody plants) but I don't know if I'd say it was prone to it. If it had a bad infestation, unchecked, it might be very damaging — though controllable if you catch it in time.

      I will agree that the great thing about yew is that it's one of the few evergreens you can *usually* cut back to old wood and have regrowth. But it's nice to have a broadleaf evergreen option in your back pocket.

  1. What do I think of the scrolls of clipped variegated euonymus? Hard to say without knowing the context for the garden, and seeing how it relates to its surroundings. But from the portion I can see, I like it very much. And this is a surprise to me, since I'm not generally a fan of variegation.

    1. Pat, I know I can count on you to think of things from a design perspective. However, I was talking about the plant material more than the design. Gardeners in a zone even slightly warmer than our USDA Z5/Canadian Z6 have more choices for hedging plants than we do, especially when it comes to evergreens. Passing by this garden on my way to somewhere else I was delighted to see a new use for this pretty ubiquitous plant. I'll be keeping the thought in my back pocket for just in case.

  2. Even though we protect our Buxus hedges from winter kill with burlap wrap here in Montreal, CDN Zone 4 , the plant remains at risk of poisoning from snow melt products applied to nearby walkways. Euonymous is a brilliant alternative to Boxwood in our climate. Thank you so much for sharing this idea. It is most inspiring. However, it is sad that Euonymous Sarcoxie = which sports glossy dark evergreen foliage and is an ideal substitute for Boxwwod because it is not variegated – is no longer readily available at retail.

    1. I didn't realize that about Euonymus 'Sarcoxie', Allan. It's listed in the Toronto area at one of the Connon nurseries online. Do you think you might be able to get it wholesale?

  3. The appeal of boxwood is that no matter how much you clip it, you get leaves and not bare branches. Euonymus can only be clipped so far before you get that bare look, right?

    1. Not quite so, Anna. Both boxwood and evergreen euonymus can get overgrown, and it's possible to rejuvenate both by drastic pruning — but that depends on what set it back in the first place. Winter-killed boxwood – which is the problem I'm talking about here – will leave you with ugly bare branches, and dead leaves right to the core of the shrub. I've seen it everywhere in Toronto after winter 2014/15.

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