Short Back and Sides for the Box.

The Rule Book says that box balls should be cut on Derby Day, which, to those of us who don’t follow horse racing, is the first weekend in June or thereabouts. I say rules are there to be broken and that box balls should be trimmed when you can’t stand their shagginess any more! Living in the south west of the country, where it is a little warmer and a lot wetter than other parts of the British Isles, I couldn’t stand it any longer three weeks ago and everything got a haircut.

Lonicera hedge

Starting with the Lonicera pileata hedge under the kitchen window, you have to admit it is very shaggy!

Lonicera Hedge

That’s a lot better, don’t you think?!

Lonicera Baggesens Gold

Just beyond the hedge is a shrub of another Lonicera, this time nitida Baggesens Gold, definitely in need of a haircut! This was a very blobby shape but for the last couple of years we have been trying to cut it into a cone shape.

Lonicera cone

I think we’re almost there.

Box balls

They don’t look very shaggy but there isn’t really enough room to get the wheelbarrow down the path. These balls are by the rose garden in the front between the house and garage.

Box balls

Room to get through now.

Box balls in rose garden

All the other box balls in the rose garden have been clipped, looking a lot better before they vanish under all the roses.

Box ball

At the top of the steps opposite the back door are two more balls, one on either side of the steps. I think I forgot to clip them last year, so there is quite a lot to come off this time, not just a trim.

Variegated Box

Looking a lot better now, the two box bushes here are a variegated variety.

Golden Box

I have tried to look this one up in the book the RHS Plantfinder and there are so many different varieties of Box, it is very confusing, but this is a golden form. When clipped you cut back into green leaves, but after a few weeks, they turn yellow again. This one is at the pointed end of the bed under the dead oak, the bed is crescent shaped.

Ginger jar?

It was supposed to be a half sphere at the bottom, with a ball on top, but I think it looks more like a chinese ginger jar! Well, at least it is neat and tidy!

All these bushes and the hedge were cut with an old sheet on the ground to catch the clippings, which could then just be lifted and taken to the compost bin – no tidying up to do!

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28 Responses to Short Back and Sides for the Box.

  1. Chloris says:

    What a lot of work involved but very satisfying. I have a Lonicera nitida Baggeson’ s Gold which is looking wild and woolly. And my weeping pear is desperate for a haircut. The garden immediately looks cared for when the clipping has been done. I love your ginger jar.

    • Pauline says:

      It is a lot of work Chloris, that’s why I hand it over to someone else! The garden now looks how I feel when I’ve had a good haircut! Having cut the box early, they might need doing again about September time, but that will just be a very quick trim.

  2. I have also just clipped my box, and it makes such a difference. I like your golden box.
    The ginger jar is also nice 🙂

  3. Christina says:

    I think I might be a bit late as I haven’t done mine yet Pauline and it is best to do them before it gets too hot. Yours look neat and tidy and very healthy. The golden box is interesting especially about cutting back into green leaves and waiting for them to turn golden again.

    • Pauline says:

      Christina, I think it was all our rain over the winter that made them put on so much growth, I don’t think we would ever have a problem with it being too hot! I like the golden box, it has a bigger, thicker leaf than B. sempervirens or suffruticosa and forms a full stop at the end of the border.

  4. alison r says:

    Beautiful work. All the box balls and Lonicera now look so neat! I am envious – we have four small box balls and would love to know the secret of cutting them so perfectly round…
    Any hints would be much appreciated.

    • Pauline says:

      Hi Alison, lovely to hear from you. No secrets, I’m afraid, they are just cut by eye. I think when they were a lot smaller, we cut them more often, but only removing a tiny amount each time, this makes them put out a lot more side shoots and helps them to thicken up. I’m sure that yours will be a lovely shape in a few years, mine are now about 20 years old!

  5. Cathy says:

    I love those ball shaped bushes! The transformation is amazing! I was wondering how you managed to take photos ‘after’ without a single leaf visible on the surrounding ground – the sheet is a great tip. I only have a couple of box, which i do trim, but think I have left it too late to try forming any kind of pretty shape. Enviable!

    • Pauline says:

      Thanks Cathy, they do look a lot better with a trim. Using the old sheet certainly saves a lot of work, I think we only cut them once without it but then picking up all the bits took far longer than cutting the balls! It’s never too late to shape your box, go for it Cathy and if it doesn’t work out, it will soon grow and you can try again!

  6. Alain says:

    I wish I had your talent for pruning. Perhaps it is the way I approach it (as a real pain). I am always pleased when it is done, even if the result is never as uniform and beautiful as what you achieve. The box balls I do not really mind as there are only 2, but the Thuya hedges….

    • Pauline says:

      Not me Alain, Hamish is the man who has the talent, he shapes them and what a good job he does. I found many years ago that it is back breaking work, bending over for such a long time, so happily handed that job over. Our large hedges are cut by my husband, I feel I have enough to do with the weeding, taking cuttings, sowing seeds and everything else to see to. Do you clip your thuya hedge by hand or do you have power tools to help?

  7. Helle (Helen) says:

    Hehe, true, it does look like a Chinese ginger jar, but that’s fine too. Wow, you have a lot to cut, I have one! But as I am busy, like you, with weeding taking cuttings etc., it hasn’t gotten a haircut yet.

    • Pauline says:

      Hi Helle, it is a lot to cut, but Hamish who comes to do them for me, manages in about two hours. I wonder if the ginger jar will stay like that or maybe it will be another shape next year!

  8. Annette says:

    I agree if things start looking messy they have to be clipped. You have a very good hand, Pauline, lovely, regular job.

    • Pauline says:

      Not me Annette, Hamish who was one of my woodcarving students when I taught at night school, cuts them for me. I now have him carving my box balls instead of carving wood!

  9. Jane Scorer says:

    Pauline, you are a woman after my own heart ! I too begin to itch to get the shears out when box and loniceras begin to look shaggy. I am so sad that I itch to cut other people’s as well! I love your before and after photos – so satisfying. They all look fantastic, and must have taken a lot of time and patience to look as good as they do !

    • Pauline says:

      Yes Jane, fingers start itching when I see shaggy box/yew etc, no matter where it is! It took a few years before they were recognisable shapes, but now they are so thick now and solid, I think I could almost sit on one of the balls, or maybe not!

  10. wellywoman says:

    Thanks for the reminder Pauline. Mine are still untrimmed. I could do with a spell of drier weather to get all the outside jobs done. Here’s hoping for a dry weekend.

    • Pauline says:

      I hope so too WW, although “they” say not to cut box when the sun is shining, otherwise the cut leaves go brown! There are still so many outside jobs to do, I feel we are playing catch up all the time!

  11. catmint says:

    so satisfying – good work Pauline. And very clever to use the sheet.

  12. Peter/Outlaw says:

    How clever to use a sheet! We’re going to copy your idea as it will save so much clean up time! Your trimmed box balls look grand!

    • Pauline says:

      Peter, when I first started cutting the box balls, many years ago, I seemed to spend far longer sweeping up all the little clippings! Anything for an easier life, it didn’t take long to think of something to catch them, it is a very old sheet, I hasten to add!

  13. debsgarden says:

    Well done! Pruning is my all time favorite chore. I have to watch out, as dear hubby is sometimes a little too eager with his electric hedge trimmers. Poor shrubs put out a new leaf, and he is out there trimming it. I prefer to prune by hand, and I like to enjoy some of that new growth!

    • Pauline says:

      Not me Deb, but one of my woodcarving students before I retired, he now comes and carves the box by hand. He does a wonderful job and keeps them and a couple of hedges nice and sharp.

  14. Frank says:

    I’ve only just started to consider trimming my young little hedge, it’s still a baby so the job isn’t as pressing as that of a lusty, full grown hedge, but this year it might finally be big enough for me to put an edge on it! (I’m one of the few who enjoys trimming them up, but I agree it’s not fun for the gardener’s back)

    • Pauline says:

      I think Frank, when my box balls were small, they just got a light trim, little and often help them to thicken up, I will look forward to seeing photos of your juvenile hedge!

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