Time to clip the Box balls.

Any book or magazine that I have read concerning shaping the box plant, Buxus, says to clip them back on Derby Day.Not being interested in horse racing, it took me a while to work out when this was, it appears that the Derby ( famous horse race in the UK ) is run on the first  Saturday in June. The landed gentry would always go off to the races and leave instructions for their gardening staff to clip all the box while they were away, was this just to keep them busy or to stop them going and betting on the race !


Anyway, not being landed gentry or having hoards of gardeners to clip the box for me, I just cut it when I think it needs doing, when it looks a bit shaggy.


All mine are various  forms of Buxus sempervirens,  which grows larger than B. Suffruticosa, and so far have not suffered from box blight, thank goodness. This cone is the golden leaved variety and is certainly ready for its hair cut.

Half and half

Should I leave it like this – maybe not ! Underneath it is dark green and will take a while to turn golden again. The old sheet is there so that the clippings can just be lifted and taken to the compost, no tidying up to do !!


All done now, I prefer it when it is golden but will just have to wait until it returns to its former glory.

Full stop

In the mean time it does a good job of forming a full stop at the end of the border, and it contrasts beautifully with Stipa gigantea next to it, the solidity of the box next to the open airiness of the grass.


Please say you can tell which plant I have done, these plants are the variegated form, given to me years ago as tiny cuttings by my friend Jill. A few more cuttings were given to me years later, these are planted down the front drive, but at the moment are more “tufts” than balls, these just need shaping with secateurs, won’t be ready for the shears for a few more years.


The box balls in the front garden where the roses are, are clipped by Hamish, who helps in the garden, and he makes such a good job of doing them, he now has a job for life ! They are so solid now, I could almost sit on them.

Roses with box

Soon they will be almost hidden by the roses arching over them, but they come into their own from November for the next 6 months. Everything else is cut back in this area for the winter and the box balls are what we see from the kitchen window.

They only need cutting once a year normally, but having done them early this year because of our hot spell, then maybe they might need a slight trim later in the year. I do like a bit of formality in the garden with everything else billowing  with happy abandonment as a contrast, do you agree ?

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8 Responses to Time to clip the Box balls.

  1. catmint says:

    dear Pauline, yes I agree. I love informality but it needs some kind of structure to set it off designwise otherwise it just looks messy. Punctuation in the garden provides structure and full stops are much easier to achieve than commas (lol) I also cut back things when I think they are asking me to do it, or when I find the time. cheers, cm

    • Pauline says:

      Hi Catmint, so glad you agree, the structure keeps it all together and then looks so good in the winter, especially our last winter when it was decorated with the snow!

  2. Kate says:

    Completely agree! I’ve just bought 10 40-50cm balls (an eBay bargain- but a 200 mile round trip to pick them up!)
    Your garden is really very lovely, and just the kind of thing I had in mind when I bought them. We’ve got a smaller town garden though, and so I’m going for a greater ‘massing’ of balls, with wild-flowers growing through the gaps. I’d like to get some variety in there, while keeping the ball theme, and wondered what the big golden rounded bush behind the buxus in the final photo was? Any other ideas for clippable/naturally-rounded shrubs that are real monsters, size-wise?

    • Pauline says:

      Kate, your garden sounds lovely with all its box balls and will be delightful contrasting with the wild flowers. The golden round shrub is Euonymous “Emerald and Gold ” and just needs clipping the same as the box. Other larger bushes that I have clipped are Yew and Lonicera, but the Lonicera needs clipping more often than the others. Also conifers can be clipped, it just depends how much time you are willing to spend clipping !

  3. Ooops, I missed the timing. Our spring was so cold and rainy this year, everything was two weeks later than normal. I also have box balls down my Lime Walk, and I had been hoping to clip them this spring, but the new growth was just starting to open when we left canada, and won’t be back until the end of August, so no clipping this year!

    • Pauline says:

      I wouldn’t worry Deborah, thay will just look as if they have a punk hairdo when you return! I suppose the only problem could be that if you cut them on your return, will the new growth have time to harden before your first frost ? We could get away with an august cut over here, but maybe your frosts arrive earlier than ours.I will look in August to see what you do!!

  4. Barbara says:

    Hi Pauline, boxwood are one of my favorite plants and I agree that the formality they offer is a wonderful foil to other flowers and shrubs. I have a geometrical “potager” bordered by box and think it adds harmony to the garden. I didn’t know about the Derby Day rule of thumb, but have just finished trimming all my boxwood over the last week, so have instinctively followed that rule, I guess. I’ve lost a couple to blight, but dug them up and replaced them without any further incidence. Yours are beautiful. I must finally remember to put down a sheet before pruning!

    • Pauline says:

      Your potager sounds lovely Barbara, and I think you have done exactly the right thing – cutting them when you think they need it – rules are made to be broken!

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