Formal Boxwood Parterre Garden ...Need Help

karinmarieMay 28, 2010

We planted over 300 Boxwoods about 3 years ago. Many of them are around the perimeter of our front yeard and then we have a formal Parterre garden that is 6 feet wide by 62 feet long between our driveway and the neighbors front yard. I designed it and I really love the has five Snow Crab trees in the centers and curley cues...everything is very symetrical. I drew it on landscape fabric in the basement and then transferred the design..a huge amount of work!

So I have a couple of issues/problems:

* I have not cut the Boxwoods yet and I am wondering how much I can safely cut off? and what is fertilizer for Boxwoods? We have hideous clay soil although we did amend the soil with a lot of peat and top soil when we planted.

* I am desperately trying to find cream colored pea gravel to use in the area where the parterre is to mimic the French and Italian formal garden look. Right now we have bark there and it washes away every time we get a good rain. I have called so many stone yards, they tell me they have it and I go look at it and it's red or pink! When it's dusty it all looks "tan" but I have learned to carry a spray bottle. Is there any state close to Colorado that has cream pea gravel??? My husband is threatening to just put any old stone in there because he is tired of replacing the bark but that would totally ruin the look I'm going for.

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If you have never pruned them in three years you will need to proceed with caution as they are probably less tightly bushed than they should be. I suggest you take off a minimum this week and do it again in two weeks time, fertilize with dried blood and prune again two weeks after that. Unless boxwood is dense you will lose the effect of your Knot garden and to get there you need to prune often, I estimate that you are 18 sessions behind but to catch up you need to go slowly (how's that for obscure advise?)

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 4:03PM
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Is there some reason you are set on cream coloured pea gravel?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 6:14PM
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Wow...I really messed up! Thank you...that is good advice. So I need to cut off about 20%...does that sound good or too much? Is the dried blood the same as iron? I had read somewhere that boxwoods need iron? What makes up the 18 sessions? We have been so busy doing "have to " repairs on the inside of the house that the landscape is going to pot!

As far as cream colored pea gravel..the house is cream colored stucco and we have Kansas limestone (cream and yellow) low stone walls around the front yard with even more boxwoods on top/behind that wall (in addition to the parterre). I also want to put the pea gravel between the front of the wall and the front sidewalk. I think pink or red gravel would look bad but any shade from cream to brown would be good.

There is a house on our street where the stucco is light gray, black roof, the stone planters around the house are yellows, tans and browns and the big water feature in front is red stone. It does not look good and I think it is sad they obviously spent so much and it could have been so beautiful if they would have just chosen the colors better.

When we put the bark in it was just supposed to be temporary until we found cream or tan pea gravel and I have not had time to try to find it for awhile.

Maybe I can figure out how to put a photo on here. Thanks for your help...I really appreciate it!!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 12:16PM
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6 prunings a season X 3 seasons = 18 sessions. 20% would be the maximum, I would go for less if this is the first trim EVER. Dried blood is a nitrogenous fertilizer, Iron is a mineral, one will encourage growth and the other will help keep your boxwood green. A picture would be good. As for your pea stone: this normally comes in a range of colours the dominant colour depends on location of the quarry. One I know of that is all one colour (yellow) is known as Georgia pea stone. You might want to try aquarium suppliers as pea stone is used in fish tanks.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 2:38PM
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Wow...I was supposed to be trimming these boxwoods 6 times a season?!!! I feel so negligent! I went to Home Depot yesterday and bought 6 bags of blood meal. (They're small bags) The garden guy there said that is the same as blood fertilizer and will also keep the rabbits off the plants as rabbits don't like it so that will be an added bonus! I will still try to get some photos taken and post them if I can figure out how.

As far as the pea gravel...Georgia is a ways from Colorado...hopefully I can find somewhere a little closer as I need quite a lot. I guess I need to figure out exactly how much. We're planning on a road trip this Summer to Oregon so guess we can check the pea gravel for the states we're going through and just rent a trailor and bring some home.

Thanks so much for your help!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 12:21PM
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Photos, please! Sounds wonderful.

Six trims a season? I have boxwood borders and I try to trim only three times a season. Why? If I trim too early in the Spring, a hard frost or cold temp will nip all new growth put out afterward and the boxwood looks awful. Trim too late in the fall, same thing - new growth doesn't have the time to harden off and will freeze and you'll have boxwood with brown leaves(or white!)

This Spring our April was more like May and vise versa. So instead of trimming in late April I trimmed last week. There was long growth - but healthy growth and instead of shearing leaves I was cutting stems. The hedges look great. Nice and green, no ugly discolored cut marks on leaves. I realize this was the first trim of the season, so I will be trimming tender new growth from now on. Plus I use scissors, not hedge trimmers, I think it makes a difference. Takes longer, but you get a more natural appearance.

Come to think of it, how high is your parterre? Depending upon how short you want to keep it, you may very well have to trim more often. All I'm saying is pay attention to frost dates or the weather forecast in Spring and Fall.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 8:47PM
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I think you are right...we have to be very careful of the freezes here in Colorado...we still had freezing last month!

I have about 1/4 of front yard boxwood trimmed....there's a lot!! I am just trimming the front side and top to try not to do more than 20% of plant and will do backside (facing house) later. I think I want the hedge in front yard to ultimately end up being about 14 " to 18" tall.

I did not do stakes with a string line or anything as I was just planning on getting them into a basic shape right now and knew I could not cut off as much as I ultimately want to.

I have not even started trimming the parterre. It was planted a year later but has not grown nearly as fast as the hedge although they are the same plants. The parterre boxwood is only about 1/4 the size of the front yard hedge. I had hired a landscape guy to help plant the parterre and he did not take the time like I did to amend the soil. I'm not sure what height for parterre..probably about 1 foot tall. I feel like I need to somehow bring more and better soil in for the looks bad compared to the hedge but maybe trimming and some blood meal will help.

I took a photo but not sure how I am supposed to get on here.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 1:11AM
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karinmarie the way, I wanted to add that when I was trimming the boxwood, they are tightly bushed and green and leafy even all the way to the stems all the way to the ground so I think they are healthy. Winter Gem is the kind of Boxwood and I picked that kind becasue they are supposed to do well in cold temperatures. I also read on the internet that you are supposed to thin out some of the old stems...would I wait until they are much older to do that?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 1:18AM
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Trimming out old stems is usually a remedial exercise and should be done with extreme care. When your bushes are the right shape and height and tightly pruned what to cut off will be evident. If you get snow or frost damage then you trim more severely and the bush will 'come back' although the bush will look bare for a while. If this is noticeable you can dig it up and turn it around. The reason I am advising you to cut often is that if you take off too little it is not a problem and you do it again whereas if you take off too much.....

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 8:38AM
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Forgot to mention that I've heard Epsom Salts is good for boxwood, I've never tried it tho.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 8:55AM
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I took a photo but not sure how I am supposed to get on here.

Upload to a photo hosting site like Photobucket, choose the image link and copy, post here using GW instructions on how to post to this site. Or send photo to me and I'll try to post pic for you.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 7:13PM
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I planted my boxwood hedge last summer (consisting of about 40 boxwoods)---goodness I can't imagine 300! I have to laugh at how much you sound like me though.... Ah, how we drive the husbands crazy eh? I have to ask, how are you pruning them at this point? Are you keeping the rounded shape? Mine are still round balls about a foot from touching, so I've been lightly pruning them, but haven't started boxing them in at all yet. I've read about the stake and string method, and to make sure not to go straight down, but rather have the top be a bit more narrow than the bottom. When is the right time to start that shape? I was waiting until they grew together, but the above comment about not having a dense shrub worried me. My neighbor's boxwoods are 5 years old and have not been pruned much (she likes them to be more natural) and I did notice the other day how open they are inside compared to mine that seem more tightly packed. I don't want to lose that! Sorry to tag along on your thread here, but I am also anxious to hear the advice you receive! :) Oh, and I would love to see pictures as well!~

To post a picture, go to and upload your picture. Once the photo is uploaded onto the site, click the picture, and then click and paste the HTML code onto the text here.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 8:48PM
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I'd like to plant a parterre in my front yard. I live in Atlanta, and the site will be in full sun. My question is what is the best type of boxwood to use? I have most access (and best pricing) for American and Wintergreen, but American gets so large that it doesn't seem like a good choice for a parterre. Can anyone recommend a good variety for a fast growing, tightly clipped, low parterre?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 4:15PM
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